Every profession has its ups and downs, and so does the teaching profession. It is unlikely that the word research comes across a teacher's mind unless they are looking to get a PhD in education. However, it is imperative that teachers put some kind of research into teaching so that they can improve themselves over time.
Why Teachers Need To Do Exploratory Research
Most teachers are hesitant when they hear the term research because they considered themselves above that. However exploratory research can help teachers go the extra mile. It is common knowledge that teachers experience both successful as well as challenging situations in their careers. Since they are often put into tight schedules they might not have the time to think of what happened and why it happened in either of the situations. Because of this, challenges get multiplied and can get out of hand. Since reflection is not a practice that most teachers do they often lose the opportunity of learning from their successful experiences as well as the challenges they have had to face. So it is absolutely vital for a teacher to sit down and conduct exploratory research on what has been going on in their teaching career and analyze it to find out their strengths and weaknesses.
What Does Exploratory Research Mean With Respect To Teaching
Unlike academic research, exploratory research is carried out on the job. This is done to acquire deep insights and understanding of a teacher's successful teaching as well as their challenges. Exploratory research is essentially beginning from the present situation and starting to take a careful look at one problem at a time, spending some time understanding the problem itself rather than looking for a temporary solution to solve it.
How Exploratory Research Can Help Teachers Understand Students Better
As mentioned above, exploratory research in relation to teaching refers to professional introspection. The process of doing such research is keeping the information in what can be called a reflective journal.
When writing the journal, try to ask questions that you would generally ask in your mind during the course of teaching. Examples of such questions would be:
- What are the interests of the students?
- What kind of books do they like to read?
- Why do some children find one topic interesting while other students find the same topic uninteresting?
- What kind of activities do they enjoy?
Carry this journal around with you and try to answer those questions via observation. For example, if the teacher’s role is that of a science teacher, the teacher can observe that student A might be interested in chemistry while student B might be interested in physics. The teacher can note this down for future reference.
Using this information the teacher can focus on the behavior of students and advise them regarding how they can advance themselves in the future. Here are a few ideas:
Arrange PTA Meetings
Conducting a PTA meeting after observing the students and understanding each individual student thoroughly can be a truly educational experience for both the student as well as the parents. The parents will get to know how the child is doing in class and what their interests are and the student will get an idea about what to do with their interests.
Focus Group Discussions
A focus group discussion is one where people from similar backgrounds or experiences come together to discuss a topic of interest. This type of exploratory research comes under qualitative research where questions are asked regarding their perceptions of attitude, beliefs, opinions, or ideas. Such focus group discussions with select students can help the teacher understand those students better and what they are really good at.
Offering Advice Based on Interests
Looking into each student’s individual preferences will reveal their interests in different subjects and the nuances in those differences. For example, two students might be interested in chemistry, but while one of them might be interested in physical chemistry, the other might be interested in organic chemistry. This is crucial because the teacher will have to mentor them differently because while the first student could have a prosperous career in kinematics and gas laws, the latter student could become an eminent biochemistry student.
How Exploratory Research Can Help Teachers Improve Themselves
Only after thorough introspection can a teacher understand how to truly improve themselves. Just like in the case of creating a reflective journal for students, create a similar journal for yourself. Ask questions that are of the nature of being critical about one's teaching. Some examples would be:
- What has been going wrong in the class?
- What has been going right?
- Do all the students understand what I teach?
- How many students are lagging behind?
- How many students are failing?
- Why are the students failing?
Answer these questions based on your own observations and use the following methods to enhance your understanding:
Feedback from Students
Teachers can hand out a feedback form to students so that the students can give honest feedback about the teacher's teaching method and understandability.
Feedback from Fellow Teachers
Teachers can always ask other teachers who have some spec time to attend the class and ask for feedback. This will give them a better understanding of their own teaching skills. Since they are essentially their colleagues, they can be freer with the teacher in question and give them a detailed in-depth analysis of their teaching method.
Going down this path can seem tedious and laborious at times but it will definitely help improve your teaching ability and understandability in the long run. The ultimate aim of the teacher is to make all the students in the class understand each and every concept that is being taught and be influential enough to invoke a sense of interest in the students for that particular subject. This can be done only if the teacher is willing to put in the effort to do some exploratory research and understand the students on a fundamental level and understand what makes them tick.