Teacher research is intentional and systematic inquiry done by teachers with the goals of gaining insights into teaching and learning, becoming more reflective practitioners, effecting changes in the classroom or school, and improving the lives of children (Cochran-Smith & Lytle 1993; 1999). Teacher research stems from teachers' own questions about and reflections on their everyday classroom practice. They seek practical solutions to issues and problems in their professional lives (Corey 1953; Stringer 2007).
The major components of teacher research are: conceptualization, in which teachers identify a significant problem or interest and determine relevant research questions; implementation, in which teachers collect and analyze data; and interpretation, in which teachers examine findings for meaning and take appropriate actions (McLean 1995). Teacher research is systematic in that teachers follow specific procedures and carefully document each step of the process—from formation of a question, through data collection and analysis, to conclusions and outcomes.
Read more from "The Nature of Teacher Research" by Barbara Henderson, Daniel R. Meier, and Gail Perry (Voices of Practitioners, 2012).
Teacher Research Resources
The online and print resources listed below provide early childhood education professionals with tools to learn more about the teacher research process, explore accounts of teachers conducting research in their own classrooms, and connect with others in the field interested in teacher research.
Resources From Voices of Practitioners
The Value of Teacher Research: Nurturing Professional and Personal Growth through Inquiry/ by Andrew J. Stremmel
View as PDF document
How To Do Action Research In Your Classroom: Lessons from the Teachers Network Leadership Institute/ by Frances Rust and Christopher Clark
Resources From Other Publications
American Educational Research Association (AERA)
AERA encourages scholarly inquiry and promotes the dissemination and application of research results. It includes special interest groups (SIGs) devoted to early childhood and teacher research. Potential members can join AERA and then choose the Action Research or Teachers as Researchers SIGs (See “AR SIG, AERA” and “TR SIG, AERA” below.) AERA holds an annual conference with presentations of early childhood teacher research among many other sessions.
Online search terms: AERA
Action Research Special Interest Group, American Educational Research Association (AR SIG, AERA)
This group builds community among those engaged in action research and those teaching others to do action research. In addition to information on joining and activity, it also offers a blog, links to action research communities, and lists of action research books, journals, and conferences.
Online search terms: AERA AR SIG
Teacher as Researcher Special Interest Group, American Educational Research Association (TAR SIG, AERA)
This group consists of AERA members who are teacher educators and preK–12th grade educators, and aims to present teacher research work and projects at the AERA conference and elsewhere nationally. Early childhood teacher research is an important part of the group.
Online search terms: Teachers as Researchers AERA
The Center for Practitioner Research (CFPR) of the National College of Education at National-Louis University
Aims to affect education through collaborative scholarship contributing to knowledge, practice, advocacy, and policy in education. The website includes selected action research resources, including links to websites, book lists, conference information, and their online journal Inquiry in Education. The journal publishes articles that contribute to scholarship and the knowledge base of practitioner research, including articles by early childhood teachers and teacher educators.
Online search terms: Center for Practitioner Research
Classroom Action Research from the Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wisconsin
Supports public school teachers doing teacher research. Includes useful guides and information for all phases of a teacher research project. Links to a large database of abstracts and some full papers searchable by grade level or subject of the teacher research projects conducted by preK–12 teachers from 1990–2010.
Online search terms: Classroom action research
Educational Action Research
An international journal concerned with exploring the dialogue between research and practice in educational settings.
Online search terms: Educational Action Research
ERIC—Education Resources Information Center
The world’s largest digital library of education literature, and invaluable for researching early childhood topics. Through using the search terms “early childhood teacher research” or various subtopics, resources such as books, articles, and related documents can be identified.
Online search terms: ERIC ed
Let’s Collaborate, Teacher Research from Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum
Includes useful supports for engaging in teacher research, including examples of K–12 research focused on science education. Offers information on starting a project, examples of teacher research projects, and links to online resources.
Online search terms: Access Excellence Teacher Research
National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE)
Promotes the professional growth of early childhood teacher educators and advocates for improvements to the field. NAECTE’s Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education occasionally publishes teacher research articles, including a special issue focused on teacher research (Volume 31, Issue 3). NAECTE also provides ResearchNets, a forum to foster educational research with teacher research presentations.
Online search terms: NAECTE
Networks: An On-line Journal for Teacher Research at the University of Wisconsin
A venue for sharing reports of action research and discussion on inquiry for teachers at all levels. Provides space for discussion of inquiry as a tool to learn about practice and improve its effectiveness. Offers searchable articles.
Online search terms: Networks teacher research
Self-Study Teacher Research: Improving your Practice through Collaborative Inquiry, Student Study Guide from Sage Publications
This web-based student study site accompanies a book of the same name, but provides a wealth of information on its own for teachers or teacher educators who conduct studies of their own teaching practice.
Online search terms: self study teacher research student study guide
Teacher Action Research from George Mason University
Offers information about the teacher research process, resources for carrying out teacher research studies, and web/print resources. Also contains discussion of current teacher research issues and a comparison of teacher research to other forms of educational research and professional development.
Online search terms: Teacher action research
Teacher Inquiry Communities Network from the National Writing Project (NWP)
Offers information on a mini-grant program supporting an inquiry stance toward teaching and learning. Includes information about the grant program, program reports, and examples of projects (including early elementary projects). Also features resources related to teacher research.
Online search terms: Teacher inquiry communities
Teaching and Teacher Education
This journal aims to enhance theory, research, and practice in teaching and teacher education through the publication of primary research and review papers.
Online search terms: Teaching and Teacher Education
Ballenger, C. 2009. Puzzling Moments, Teachable Moments: Practicing Teacher Research in Urban Classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press.
Offers a detailed portrait of how teacher research results are used to modify day-to-day practice and meet the needs of diverse groups of children. Also describes important principles and strategies for engaging in teacher research.
Brookline Teacher Research Seminar & C. Ballenger. 2003. Regarding Children’s Words: Teacher Research on Language and Literacy. New York: Teachers College Press.
Written by members of the Brookline Teacher Research Seminar, a long-standing teacher research study group, this collection includes the history and functioning of the inquiry community and teacher research studies at the preschool and K–3 levels.
Castle, K. 2012. Early Childhood Teacher Research: From Questions to Results. New York: Routledge.
Written for early childhood professionals, this book explores all phases of the teacher research process.
Cochran-Smith, M., & S. Lytle. 1993. Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge. New York: Teachers College Press.
Discusses the concern that knowledge about teaching is usually generated by those outside the classroom for teachers to apply in their classrooms. In contrast, the text suggests that teaching should relate to teachers’ practical knowledge of their actual classrooms. Argues that teacher research can transform, not simply add to, the present knowledge base in the field, linking research with practice and inquiry with reform.
Cochran-Smith, M., & S. Lytle. 2009. Inquiry as Stance: Practitioner Research for the Next Generation. New York: Teachers College Press.
This comprehensive volume on practitioner research, by the most prominent U.S. leaders in the field, highlights the importance and meaning of assuming an inquiry perspective. Discusses the implications for schools, universities, and policymakers regarding the way knowledge about competent teaching is created and positioned in the larger educational and social contexts.
Compton-Lilly, C. 2003. Reading Families: The Literate Lives of Urban Children. New York: Teachers College Press.
Based on teacher research with first-grade students, their parents, and grandparents, this book challenges the stereotypical view that urban families don’t care about their children’s education. Shows how listening closely to the voices of children and families can move us beyond negative assumptions, revealing previously undocumented complexities.
Dana, N.F., & D. Yendol-Hoppey. 2009. The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research: Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn Through Practitioner Inquiry. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Takes readers step-by-step through the process of teacher inquiry: formulating a research question, collaborating with others, collecting data, analyzing data, writing, presenting, and assessing the quality of the classroom research projects.
Dewey, J.  1997. Democracy and Education. New York: The Free Press.
Addressing the challenge of providing quality public education in a democratic society, this seminal work on public education introduces theories about teaching and learning, emphasizing bringing the practical work of the community into the classroom curriculum.
Fu, V.R., A.J. Stremmel & L.T. Hill. 2002. Teaching and Learning: Collaborative Exploration of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.
Reintroduces the Reggio Emilia approach through rich stories and examples of children’s projects that invite readers to examine their personal learning processes. Offers innovative ways to meld theory with teaching and action research while considering the professional development of each reader.
Gallas, K. 1995. Talking Their Way into Science: Hearing Children’s Questions and Theories, Responding with Curricula. New York: Teachers College Press.
Explores ‘science talks’ in primary classrooms to gain insights into how children and teachers think and talk about science. Offers details of the author’s work as a teacher researcher and member of the Brookline (MA) Teacher Research Seminar.
Hall, I., C.H. Campbell & E.J. Miech. 1997. Class Acts: Teachers Reflect on Their Own Classroom Practice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Kindergarten and early elementary teachers write about teacher research projects, providing compelling reflections on practice as they find new ways of learning from children and making sense of their own teaching.
Hatch, J.A., ed. 2007. Early Childhood Qualitative Research. New York: Routledge.
This collection represents the best work being done in early childhood qualitative studies, offering descriptions of research methods and discussions of important issues related to current early childhood qualitative research.
Hill, L.T., A. Stremmel & V. Fu. 2005. Teaching as Inquiry: Rethinking Curriculum in Early Childhood Education. New York: Pearson Education.
This text encourages wonder, curiosity, asking questions, looking for answers, and making sense of the world in different ways. Promotes teaching as an art that supports the learner in multiple ways, using various tools responsive to individual orientations and multiple intelligences.
Hubbard, R.S., & B.M. Power. 1999. Living the Questions: A Guide for Teacher Researchers. York, ME: Stenhouse.
A good resource for teacher research methods, this guide for novice and veteran teacher researchers will challenge and inspire educators at all levels to see the potential for inquiry in their lives.
Meier, D.R., & B. Henderson. 2007. Learning from Young Children in the Classroom: The Art and Science of Teacher Research. New York: Teachers College Press.
Provides a comprehensive introduction to high-quality teacher research in early childhood settings. Features many excerpts and summaries of original research projects by teachers working with all earlychildhood age groups.
Mohr, M., C. Rogers, B. Sanford, M. Nocerino, M.S. MacLean & S. Clawson. 2004. Teacher Research for Better Schools. New York: Teachers College Press.
Documenting the work of a network of experienced K–12 teacher researchers, this text describes teachers working together to improve teaching and how their research impacted and influenced their school system.
Paley, V.G. 1991. The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter: The Uses of Storytelling in the Classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Paley, V.G. 1993. You Can’t Say You Can’t Play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
These two books recount Paley’s work of learning from children, examining and reflecting on her own practice. See Cooper’s chapter of this volume for particular descriptions.
Project Zero. 2003. Making Teaching Visible: Documenting Individual and Group Learning as Professional Development. Cambridge, MA: Project Zero.
Researchers from Project Zero and schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy, collaborated with preK–8 teachers to reflect on how documentation of individual and group learning can serve as professional development.
Wells, G. 2001. Action, Talk, and Text: Learning and Teaching Through Inquiry. New York: Teachers College Press.
Drawing on work by the Developing Inquiring Communities in Education Project, this text provides a range of practical, replicable methods for building collaborative communities. Also offers strategies for facilitating inquiry-based learning and teaching.