Action Research

Started in the spring of 2012, the MERC Action Research Initiative works with teachers and other school staff from the MERC school divisions to develop practitioner-led research projects that address the everyday problems of classrooms and schools. The MERC Action Research Initiative has four goals:

  1. To train K-12 teachers from the Richmond Region in the theory and methods of action research.
  2. To support teachers as they design and conduct action research projects in their classrooms and schools.
  3. To help with the dissemination of action research within schools, divisions and the broader educational research community.
  4. To build a network of teacher action researchers across the region.

Through the 2016-2017 School Year, a cohort of teachers from the Richmond Region participated in an action research program coordinated by MERC and sponsored by the Metropolitan Educational Research Alliance (META). For the program the teachers participated in three-day summer workshop designed (1) to introduce participants to the theory and practice of teacher action research, (2) to develop some skills in research design and methods, and (3) to pose initial questions for investigation. Through the course of the school year, each teacher conducted multiple cycles of action research inquiry in his or her classroom or school, and then met four times bi-monthly to share the results of their projects and receive critical peer review. As a culminating activity, most of the members of the cohort wrote a short summary of their projects and participated in an interview with the program facilitators about their work. In the interviews the teachers discuss the problem addressed by the research, the questions posed, the methods of data collection and analysis, and the key findings. They also address both the opportunities and the challenges of conducting research in a school setting. We encourage you to review these action research profiles and consider the value of teacher research both as a form of professional development and as a way of building practice-based professional knowledge for teaching.

Check out the work by our Teacher Action Researchers by reading their research summaries and listening to their interviews!

Stephanie Biller 
5th Grade Teacher
Ridge Elementary School
Henrico County Public Schools

Stephanie’s research explores how whole brain teaching techniques impact student engagement in a 5th grade classroom.  

Liza Collins 
Math Teacher
Clover Hill High School
Chesterfield County Public Schools
Liza’s research investigates the design of a beginning-of-the-day student support period.  


Brian Letourneau 
Social Studies Teacher
Hanover High School, Hanover County Public Schools
Brian’s research focuses on reading comprehension in content areas for high school students.



Cheryl Thompson
Pre-K Teacher
Blackwell Preschool Development Center,
Richmond City Public Schools
Cheryl’s research explores pretend gun play in preschool children and how teachers can work with these students to model appropriate behavior while not discouraging the importance of play.


Leigh Ann Pullen 
Special Education Teacher
Washington Henry Elementary School
Hanover County Public Schools
Leigh Ann’s research is about the effect of choice environments in an elementary level special education classroom.  


Marivic Mitchell 
Science Teacher
G.H. Moody Middle School
Henrico County Public Schools
Marivic’s research focuses on how inquiry-based teaching relates to students’ cognitive engagement in 7th grade
Physical Science.


Margaret Kielty 
Kindergarten Teacher
H. Reid Elementary School
Richmond City Public Schools
Margaret’s research focuses on developing number systems knowledge in a Kindergarten classroom with a mix of English Learners and native English Speakers.

Other Cohort 6 Teacher Action Researchers
Amber DeLauri – Martin Luther King Middle School, Richmond City Public Schools
Adrian Martin – Crenshaw Elementary School, Chesterfield County Public Schools
Laurie Messer – Carver College and Career Academy, Chesterfield County Public Schools
Patricia Woodberry – Chimborazo Elementary, Fox Elementary, Oak Grove Elementary, and Swansboro Elementary, Richmond City Public Schools

Program Facilitators
Jesse Senechal – VCU, MERC
Jenny Smith  – Quioccasin Middle School, Henrico County Public Schools

For more about action research, check out Episode 4 of Abstract, which features a conversation with Margaret, Marivic, Liza, Jesse, and Jenny about this program!

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