A number of teachers across the TST BOCES region have come together to form the Teacher Research Fellows Inquiry Group to conduct analysis based directly on the classroom experience.
This year-long initiative, a collaboration of TST BOCES and the Ithaca College Education Department, emphasizes the role of the teacher in generating data and classroom-based knowledge. The program is a job-embedded professional development opportunity that foregrounds teacher expertise.
Each teacher began by selecting a research question to guide their inquiry and data collection. The Teacher Research Fellows Inquiry Group then provides time, space, community and methodological support for teachers to conduct their research. Some of the questions being explored this year include: “What best motivates my students to write?” and “What can I do to impact students’ perception of their own creativity?”
“Being part of the Teacher Inquiry Fellowship has given me an opportunity to explore in-depth a topic of my choice that resulted in rich and meaningful conversations and feedback from my students and other teacher research fellows,” Kara FrostClapp said (Trumansburg eighth grade social studies).
Research findings are then shared and discussed collaboratively with the group. The collaboration allows the questions to evolve along with the discussion to maximize on the knowledge learned throughout the process.
“Being a part of this group has encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to do some purposeful research in my own classroom,” Patricia Parsons said (South Seneca seventh-eighth grade ELA). “I think that when we don’t have a group with common goals and experiences to support us that we might not push through when the experience starts to get a little tough. Being part of this group has pushed me to keep analyzing my question and trying new things with my classes to try to get results.”
An example of a career pathway opportunity that both encourages effective teachers to continue working in the classroom while also honoring their time and expertise, Teacher Research Fellows earn a nominal stipend through TST BOCES. The participants will share the findings of their inquiries at a professional conference to be held at Ithaca College in June.
More than anything, perhaps, the program has provided the teachers a way to stay energized about their profession and engage more deeply with the development of their craft.
“There is an explicit time and place to work on refining my craft as an educator, answer my questions, listen to others’ successes and struggles, and most importantly, help create a community which fosters uncovering deeper questions,” Mary Balfour said (Dryden K/UPK). “More than ever, this year, I feel I’m learning along with the kids, rediscovering what it means to be an intrepid explorer of the world. The project has been one of the best parts of my post-academic years.”