Cycles and Scaffolds for Learning

At Cleveland High School, micro action-research cycles comprise a year-long, macro cycle of professional learning. Partners in professional learning are able to experience the various cycles. Partners have included University of Washington teacher candidates and aspiring educational leaders.

A micro action-research cycle is a professional learning experience that begins with 1) clarifying a problem of practice, 2) posing a question related to the problem, 3) using one of five micro cycles to investigate the question, 4) collecting and analyzing data, and 5) reporting data.

Consider the following example: A team of teachers has been concerned about low attendance (problem of practice). They wonder what they might learn if each of them shadows a student who is consistently absent. To investigate, they develop a protocol for shadowing a student to three classes, two hallway transitions, and lunch. Their goal is to notice when students are most likely to be challenged and engaged (As you can see, the micro cycle teachers have developed involves the practice of shadowing students). To implement a respectful approach to shadowing students, each teacher meets with the teachers whose classes they will visit, and with students. This ensures that their approach is respectful. The teachers who are shadowing decide to collect data using a two column chart. In the left column, they note student to teacher, and student to student interactions. In the right column, they note personal thoughts or questions. Following their experience, the team of teachers analyzes their data, looking for themes and patterns that provide insight into student motivation. Their next step will be to apply insights to their own teaching. They will also communicate to other colleagues what they learned from their observations. At this point, teachers are often able to identify new problems of practice based on what they have learned. In this way, the cycle continues with new questions and, sometimes, a new method of investigation. For example, as a consequence of shadowing, teachers may become curious about ways to make teaching and learning more relevant to a range of students. Home visits might be the next structure they use to conduct a micro-cycle.

The previous example shows how different cycles continuously emerge. Through inquiry-focused activities, such as shadowing, home visits and other structures represented in the diagram, educators,and graduate students can learn from qualitative and quantitative data.
Site Administrator,
Apr 20, 2011, 9:19 AM