Aria Razfar and the Transforming Literacy, Science, and Mathematics through Action Research (LSciMAct) team worked with 30 K-8 in-service teachers in eight school cohorts to identify an issue or problem within the communities where they teach so that the subject matters to their students. Students researched materials, collected and analyzed data, wrote letters and performed other tasks to solve the problem before them. Teachers conducted a one-year action research study developing, implementing and analyzing three 4-week activity units that drew on these real-world problems and integrated mathematics, science, and literacy. Overall, the teachers became aware of how structural constraints, their own authority, teacher centered discourse, the social arrangements of students, and mediational tools impacted the kind of learning that emerged.
The study was so successful that the U.S. Department of Education took notice, and awarded the UIC team a five-year, $1.97 million grant to keep it going. The grant entitled, “English Learning through Math, Science, and Action Research (ELMSA)” is a continuation of Razfar’s original five-year study “Transforming Literacy, Science, and Mathematics through Action Research (LSciMAct)”. As Razfar embarks on this second wave of action research – or research that helps bring change into a community – the focus continues to be on improving teaching and learning English through mathematics, science, and literacy. Teachers will spend about 2 and a half years with Razfar, as they engage in action research while also pursuing their Master’s Degree and ESL/Bilingual Endorsement.