- Today's Practitioner is Both Qualitative and Quantitative Researcher
Although the use of action research has made its way into various faculties of education as a means of applying theory to practice, there remains a disconnect between the teacher as an educator and the teacher as a researcher. Research must be empirically based; therefore, it has traditionally been seen to reside in the domain of the theorist or expert. Action research however, has by traditionalists been regarded as a misnomer, it is at best a case study which has little if any validity beyond the classroom from which the data was collected. From the perspective of the students who undertake a course in research as part of their program of studies whether it is delivered from the traditional model or based on action research the question of relevance remains to them one of primary concern. In speaking with recent graduates from various institutions, I have found that their evaluations do not differ from my own findings that the research course I had undertaken as part of my initial certification had minimal connection to my life as a classroom practitioner. Although my research course had introduced me to a variety of educational journals and taught me to read with a more critical eye, I did not take from the course an understanding of how, if at all, this information was pertinent to what I expected to encounter in the daily routines of teaching.
I recalled that as a new teacher, little of my time went into reading educational research and even less time went into reflecting on how research on teaching could assist me in my classroom practice. In fact, most if not all of my time went into planning, preparation and student evaluation. What little professional time I had left was taken up by my involvement with extra-curricular activities. Including a formal course in research as part of my studies seemed to me, at the time, a waste of time; time that could have been better spent providing me with the practical knowledge that I could directly apply to my classroom and to my career. It was not until I reviewed the textbook and outline and reflected upon the course intent and its purpose as a whole, that what I had missed seemed now, quite obvious. Today's practitioner is both a qualitative and a quantitative researcher but like so many students entering [End Page 72] the profession, I was not able at that time, to make the connection between theory and practice. It was not until years later that I was able to understand how seeing myself as a researcher was critical to my performance as an educator. What we as educators need to assist students with is the ability to distinguish between training and education.
From kindergarten to the completion of their undergraduate degree, students are trained, not educated. They learn (in the behavioral sense) that academic success is predicated on replication and not imagination. Receiving a grade of an "A" signifies that one has been successful in finding the "right" answer which often consists of little more than the reorganization of information that has emanated from one's teachers and professors. Schools train students to seek answers, not to formulate questions. Historically, there "is a certain amount – a fixed quantity – of ready-made results and accomplishments to be acquired by all children alike in a given time. It is in response to this demand that the curriculum has been developed from the elementary school up through the college." (Dewey, 1900/1990, p.33)
As I came to find years later, elementary education focuses on conveying "facts" or "truths" from the teacher to the student. It clearly indicates to the student that this is the way things are. While still in this mode secondary education presents these "facts" and "truths" as the way things usually are. By the time I reached college, the focus had shifted to one which saw "facts" or "truths" as the way we think things are. However, by graduate school we were expected, indeed required, to think for ourselves. "Facts" and "truths", at least in the contexts in which they were...