The following four-step process will help you plan a small action research project to explore your questions about content-based instruction, implement action plans for choosing appropriate content for your students' ages and proficiency levels, and collect information to assess your instructional innovations. Before you begin this section, you can go to About Action Research for an introduction to the process of designing and conducting action research projects. If you are taking this workshop for credit, you will need to complete one action research project from any one of the eight workshop sessions as an assignment.
If you would like to focus on content-based instruction for your action research project, use the following questions and examples to help frame your thinking and shape your project.
- What issue concerning content-based instruction do you want to describe, document, and investigate? For example, you could analyze a content-based lesson to see how the materials, concepts, and language support one another; examine how your students engage with the content in your thematic lessons as compared with other lessons you have taught; or document when the language becomes opaque for students during a content-based class. This will be the focus of your action research project.
- Why is content-based instruction important to you as a teacher? How have you approached integrating content into language learning in the past? How might you want to change that approach and why? If you have not integrated content into language learning, why not? What has been your experience working with teachers in other disciplines to bring their content into your lessons or to integrate both their subject area and your target language into one project? What have been the benefits and challenges of working with other content-area teachers? Are you satisfied with how well students engage with content-based lessons and/or your instructional strategies? Why or why not?
- What is your research question concerning content-based instruction? The research question will help you investigate your area of focus and understand it better. For example:
- How can I ensure that my students are making language gains in a content-based lesson?
- How do my students' participation and language learning differ in content-based classes?
- How do lessons developed around student-selected content differ from lessons I prepare with no student input? How does my students' engagement in the two types of lessons differ?
- How have my assessment practices changed as a result of using content-based lessons? What factors do I now consider when assessing student progress in a content-based lesson?
- What is the action plan for carrying out your project? Depending on your action research question, the following are some questions you might ask yourself to help you develop an action plan:
- How will I document student reactions to content-based lessons? How often will I do so?
- How will I analyze my content-based lessons so that I can better understand how to scaffold my students' content knowledge?
- How will I gather information from students about the academic content that they would find interesting in a foreign language class?
- How will I document the ways in which language becomes opaque to students, either through their own interactions or through my instruction, in a content-based lesson? How often will I track this?
- How will I document and analyze students' growth in language and content knowledge over the course of one or several content-based lessons?
- What information will you need to collect to answer your research question and assess your project? For example, you could take field notes, ask a colleague to observe your class and look for particular aspects relevant to your study, distribute student questionnaires and self-assessments, or gather student work samples. You should have at least two sources of information.
- How much time will you allot for your action research? That is, when and for how long do you plan to collect information before you're ready to begin analyzing it? Develop a timeline for implementing your action plan.
- After collecting your information, how will you analyze it? That is, how will you organize and review the information you have collected to understand it better and help you answer your research question? For example, will you use percentages based on responses to a questionnaire? Analyze a videotape of your classroom for a particular aspect of instruction? Summarize interview data with other teachers to look for emerging themes? Do a comparative analysis of assessments in a content-based lesson and in other standards-based lessons?
- How will you display the information so that it can be shared with others? For example, you can use charts, graphs, and/or tables. The goal is to organize your data in a way that presents a clear description of what you investigated.
Note: The final step of the action research project is to reevaluate your teaching practice based on your research data. Because it takes time to complete an action research project, it may not be possible to do this step during the workshop. However, if you are taking this workshop for credit, you will need to complete one action research project during or after the course of the workshop to submit as an assignment.
If you are taking the workshop for graduate credit, submit your completed action research project on any one of the eight session topics.
- Based on what you learned through your data analysis, how will you rethink your teaching practice? What changes will you make to your lessons the next time you develop and implement a content-based lesson? If you had to research content-based lessons again, what changes would you make to your action research plan?
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