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Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

In your job, are you ever confronted with a difficult but important text? Perhaps it’s a law, a dense technical journal, or an academic tome which is not your normal everyday reading. Do you feel interested in working your way through it? Is the fact that it’s “important” enough to motivate you?

I imagine you, like me, have at least some anxiety or trepidation when faced with this situation. So how do you get through it? Confidence in yourself from prior experience, knowing how you learn, using supports (maybe a bit of Google definition searching), and perseverance.

Yet, students who are still building these skills in school may not have these tools in their toolbox just yet. Confronted with something which looks beyond their ability can be scary and many students may do anything to avoid reading it. …


No one could have seen this coming, but who said action research was predictable?

When I created my research question [What are the potential barriers for students with learning differences to access primary source documents in the history classroom?] and began perusing the existing research, I knew that technology would play a role in my research but I didn’t know it would become a central variable of study.

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Credit @chuklanov https://unsplash.com/photos/DUmFLtMeAbQ/info

Due to the global pandemic, my school has taken the approach of virtual, synchronous classes. This new set-up allowed me to collect my data in two formats: half of my student checklists were collected during in-person classroom teaching and half during virtual teaching. …


It’s Checklist Time! Diving into Data Collection

If research is a puzzle, data collection is a process of dumping the pieces out of the box and diving in to sort through it. For some, it may be a satisfying commencement to see the data begin to roll in, but for me, I find it comes with anxiety. Will it be easy to piece everything together or will I be forever wading through looking for connections?

Part of my worry comes from the nature of the data, which is largely open-ended and qualitative. Since graduate school I have been particularly fond of qualitative research. Following a bachelor’s degree and student research which was heavily quantitative, I find the nuance of qualitative and oral research fascinating. It is, by its nature, much more subjective, so I am seeking to triangulate my research with some quantitative elements to anchor the qualitative analysis.


It’s one thing to have a theory — another to test it.

Having developed my research question [What are the potential barriers for students with learning differences to access primary source documents in the history classroom?] and reviewed the existing research, the time has come to learn about how my theory performs in the context of my classroom.

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My plans for research are primarily qualitative and correlational — I’m seeking to explore these potential barriers to better understand them. I’m not planning experiments so I’m not seeking causation — only better understanding.

Methodology can be a bit of a puzzle — collecting data in different ways and finding the interlocking connections to further a theory. My hope is that all of the different pieces (methods) will fit together in a way which can inform us on ways to better support students. Over the coming months, my methods will…


Confidence and motivation are critical to success in the world of work. Having enough self-esteem to put work forward, be proud of the product, and having the interest to complete it are essential ingredients in a productive day. So, how do these same factors impact schooling, especially for students with learning differences who are approaching a difficult task?

I am continuing to investigate my study question [What are the potential barriers for students with learning differences to access primary source documents in the history classroom?] through a review of related literature.


This is my second year teaching middle school history at Commonwealth Academy and last year I became particularly interested in helping my history students access primary source documents. Personally, I find historical documents fascinating — rich with context clues, archaic language, and a sense of purpose from the writers. Often, there is a voice to these documents that seems to inhabit their importance, even at the moment of writing or uttering — as if they knew, someday, we might be reading it, to gain more knowledge about this moment in history.

While I see it as a rich investigation and psychological exploration, I know this is not the experience for many students. Some students see history as a set of facts that need to be learned for tests. Unfortunately, others have had previous negative educational experiences which might hamper their motivation or confidence in future history assignments. …

About

Sora Wondra

Middle/High School teacher and educational scientist seeking to conduct action research to engage students.

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