Epistemological shifts in empowering teachers actions three action research case studies
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Epistemological Shifts in Empowering Teachers’ Actions: Three Action Research Case Studies. Luz C arime Bersh, Ph. D. National Louis University April 14 th 2012. Meta analysis of the study that explored three teachers’ A.R. projects as vehicles to support literacy in at-risk students.

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Epistemological Shifts in Empowering Teachers’ Actions: Three Action Research Case Studies

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Epistemological Shifts in Empowering Teachers’ Actions: Three Action Research Case Studies

Luz Carime Bersh, Ph. D.

National Louis University

April 14th 2012

  • Meta analysis of the study that explored three teachers’ A.R. projects as vehicles to support literacy in at-risk students.

  • http://digitalcommons.nl.edu/ie/vol2/iss2/2/

  • Focus today:

  • Summary of findings in a phenomenological study on epistemological shifts of three teachers in Florida, as they went through their individual A.R. processes


Native Nicaraguan teacher working with a large population of ELL and Hispanic students, who are below grade-level in English reading and writing. Strategies include parental involvement, integrating multicultural children’s literature and using bilingual methods to improve English vocabulary and comprehension. Fostering her students’ pride and continuous cultivation of their cultural heritage are of paramount importance.


African-American teacher working with culturally diverse at-risk students at a charter school. Strategies include developing literacy skills by engaging students with culturally relevant literature, role-playing and interview delivery formats.

White veteran teacher of Spanish, working in one of the most vulnerable areas: High percentage of African American, Hispanic and economically impoverished students. Utilizes Podcasts to encourage reading supporting students’ development of literacy skills in technology media, Spanish and English.


I am the professor, advisor, mentor.

Colombian, Latina, first language: Spanish, Critical Feminist Pedagogy, Humanist, Constructivist.

Research Questions:

  • What are the epistemological shifts of teachers leading action research projects in their classrooms?

  • Beyond epistemological shifts, what are the changes in skills, dispositions, actions?

  • What are the shifts in teachers’ self-perception, self-efficacy as a result of going through the A.R. process?

Methods for Data Collection and Analysis

  • Case study structure (Satke, 2006) & Phenomenological conceptual framework (e.g. Schutz, 1972).

  • Participants’ self-reflections

  • Presentation at 4th Equity and Social Justice Conference (2011)

  • Informal interviews

  • Written questionnaire

  • Researcher’s reflections

Epistemological shifts:





Students' well-being, achievement, self-efficacy

Inspire teachers to emancipatory action





Leads to:

Improvement classroom practices

Desire professional improvement

Leadership agency





Epistemological shifts:Knowledge, skills, attitudes

  • Concur with literature review:

  • A.R. as P.D. (Sales, Traver & Garcia, 2011; Shabani, Khatib & Ebadi, 2010; West, 2011).

  • A.R. as identity transformative process, empowerment and agency (Goodnough, 2009).

  • A.R as trigger for positive change in emotions, personal agency beliefs, sense of self-efficacy (Suksunai, Wiratchai & Khemmani, 2011).

  • A.R. elicits confidence reflected in on-going improvement of classroom practices (Bradley-Levine, Smith & Carr, 2009).

Shifts in A.R. development process:

  • Turner’s Model (2010)

  • Research immersion

  • Research literacy

  • Authentic research design

  • Incremental process

  • Teacher and student reflection

  • New findings:

  • Little to no knowledge about A.R.

  • Research immersion

  • Struggle with research process & questioning ways of knowing

  • Trials into research process

  • Refinements of research skills leading to research literacy

  • Authentic research design

  • Incremental process and acknowledgment of limitations of A.R.

  • Further refinement and narrowing content

  • Determining “when is the project done?”

  • Final teacher reflection

  • Further motivation to expand and share projects

  • Leadership agency.

Beyond epistemological shifts:

  • Empowerment: A.R. : Teachers’ voices are heard; reconstruction of the teaching persona.

  • Desire to improve professionally: Participation in symposium at 4th Conference of Equity and Social Justice: co-authored article in Journal of Inquiry and Education.

  • Leadership agency *: Engagement in Ed.S. EDL; increased locus of influence.

  • Emancipatory action*: Change agency beyond classroom; mentoring other teachers in A.R.

Finding the “switch” that makes the “click”

  • (myself included):

  • Broad multicultural connections: ethnicity, gender, S.E.S., ESPECIALLY similarities in life stories AND

  • Intersectionality issues of culture/subcultures

  • Change engrained paradigms of self-efficacy:

  • The “click” that makes the difference between NOT knowing you can to knowing you CAN.


  • Bradley-Levine, J., Smith, J., & Carr, K. (2009). The role of action research in empowering teachers to change their practice. Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research, 3, 152-61.

  • Crawford, P.A. & Cornett, J. (2000). Looking back to find the vision: exploring the emancipatory potential of teacher research. Childhood Education, 77(1), 37-45.

  • Giles, C., Wilson, J. & Elias, M. (2010). Sustaining teachers’ growth and renewal through action research, induction programs, and collaboration. Teacher Education Quarterly, 37(1), 91-108.

  • Goodnough, K. (2010). The role of action research in transforming teacher identity: Modes of belonging and ecological perspectives. Educational Action Research,18(2), 167-82.

  • Rearick, M.L., & Feldman, A. (1999). Orientations, purposes and reflection: A framework for understanding action research. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15(4), 333-49.

  • Sales, A., Traver, J.A., & Garcia, R. (2011). Action research as a school-based strategy in intercultural professional development for teachers. Teacher and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 27(5), 911-19.

  • Shabani, K., Khatib, M., Ebadi, S. (2010). Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development: instructional implications and teachers’ profesional development. English LanguageTeaching, 3(4), 237-48.

  • Shutz, A. (1972). The Phenomenology of the social world. London: Heinemann Educational.

  • Stake, R.E. (2006). Multiple case study analysis. New York: Guilford Press.

  • Suksunai, D., Wiratchai, N., & Khemmani, T. (2011). Effects of motivational psychology characteristics factors on teachers' classroom action research performance. Research in Higher Education Journal,10, 1-12.

  • Turner, S.A. (2010). Teaching research to teachers: A self-study of course design, student outcomes, and instructor learning. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10(2), 60-77.

  • West, C. (2011). Action research as a professional development activity. Arts Education Policy Review, 112(2), 89-94.

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