data about student learning and a necessity for shared decisions. These findings are consistent with analyses of situated learning and discourse (Greeno et al., 1996); empirical studies of high school teachers’ use of information in their work (Natriello et al., 1994), and models of assessment as situated discourse around texts (Case and Moss, 1996).
Action research represents another approach to enhancing teacher learning by proposing ideas to a community of learners. Action research is an approach to professional development in which, typically, teachers spend 1 or more years working on classroom-based research projects. While action research has multiple forms and purposes, it is an important way for teachers to improve their teaching and their curricula, and there is also an assumption that what teachers learn through this process can be shared with others (Noffke, 1997). Action research contributes to sustained teacher learning and becomes a way for teachers to teach other teachers (Feldman, 1993). It encourages teachers to support each other’s intellectual and pedagogical growth, and it increases the professional standing of teachers by recognizing their ability to add to knowledge about teaching. Ideally, active engagement in research on teaching and learning also helps set the stage for understanding the implications of new theories of how people learn.
The teachers of the Physics Teacher Action Research Group (PTARG) in the San Francisco Bay area practice a form of collaborative action research called enhanced normal practice (Feldman, 1996). In regular group meetings, the teachers discuss their students’ work. Between the meetings they try out pedagogical and curricular ideas from the group. They then report to the group on successes and failures and critically analyze the implementation of the ideas. In addition to generating and sharing of pedagogical content knowledge, the PTARG teachers came to deeper understandings of their subject area (Feldman, 1993; see also Hollingsworth, 1994, on work with urban literacy teachers).
Action research can also be tailored to the level of expertise and the needs of the teachers, especially if the teachers set the goals for the research and work collaboratively. Because action research is a constructivist process set in a social situation, teachers’ beliefs about learning, their students, and their conceptions of themselves as learners are explicitly examined, challenged, and supported. When action research is conducted in a collaborative mode among teachers, it fosters the growth of learning communities. In fact, some of these communities have flourished for as many as 20 years, such as the Philadelphia Teachers Learning Cooperative and the Classroom Action Research Network (Feldman, 1996; Hollingsworth, 1994; Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1993).