Creation of a Research Community in a K-12 School System Using Action Research and Evidence Based Practice

Susan D. Ballard, Gail March, Jean K. Sand

Abstract


Objective - The purpose of this study was to apply skills developed from an Action Research Training Model (Gordon) in the design of two action research projects to ensure that students are ethical users of ideas and information. It was deemed necessary to assess prior knowledge and attitudes of students and teachers in order to identify issues to be addressed.

Methods - Both projects employed the use of survey instruments, which presented students with scenarios involving aspects of information use, and asked whether or not the actions in the scenarios were examples of ethical use. The high school survey was administered to 381 students in tenth grade English classes. The elementary survey was administered to 87 students in fifth grade.

A more comprehensive survey was administered at the high school level. For each student behavior addressed by the survey, there were two questions: one eliciting the teacher’s perception of how often students engaged in that behavior, and the second how often the teacher had to confront a student about the same behavior. Participation was voluntary, and 36 teachers took the survey.

Results - Surveys administered at the high school level showed that most students have a good understanding of the ethical use of information regarding clear instances of plagiarism. Students’ understanding was less clear in two major areas: creating a bibliography that accurately reflects the sources used to create the work, and the level of collaboration or assistance that is appropriate in completing a research assignment.

The teacher surveys showed some discrepancy between perception of the frequency of certain types of unethical student behavior and how often teachers challenged students on that behavior. The surveys showed that teachers found plagiarism to be the most prevalent behavior, while obtaining copies of exams and buying papers were the least frequently occurring behaviors.

At the elementary level, results indicated that understanding how to properly cite sources was a major area of concern. Students were also confused about whom to ask for help during the research process. Instructional intervention was developed and applied. The survey was re-administered with the addition of items that were based on the interventions. Responses showed a marked improvement in understanding by at least 20%. Some responses improved by as much as 60%.

Conclusion - The study validated the Action Research Training Model as the first dimension and conceptual framework that informs and guides instructional practices of school library media specialists and teachers in a K-12 school district. After using the model to examine student-teacher knowledge and understanding of ethical use of information (second dimension), there was recognition of the need to clarify the school’s position on the ethical use of information for teachers and students and provide intentional instruction and interventions for students beginning at an earlier grade level. After being made aware of the results, teachers were anxious to work with library media specialists to address issues and to look for opportunities within research units to collaborate.

Keywords


Evidence-based practice, action research, professional development, K-12 school system, collaboration, information literacy, ethical use, plagiarism, intellectual integrity, copyright, high school, middle school, elementary school.

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