Every teacher doubles as an educational researcher at Coal Creek Elementary in Louisville, Colorado.
Each year, the staff at this suburban elementary school identifies questions about teaching and learning that they want to explore either individually or as a schoolwide team. One project, for example, looked at how the questions children ask can be used to identify differences in their learning styles and social development.
Teachers gather data by observing classrooms and interviewing children, colleagues, and family members. Paraprofessionals and family members help with interviewing and documenting findings. Teachers turn to the Internet and a large professional library to help inform their research.
"Our research gives us a constructive way of dealing with challenges and problems," says Ellen Goering, Coal Creek's principal. "We collect and research information and we hash it out together." Substitute teachers staff the school one day each month so teachers can meet to share research topics and strategies and evaluate work on curriculum and assessment. Through partnerships with local universities, research projects often evolve into professional development courses that provide teachers with graduate credits and help hone their research skills and methods.