What happens when real-world problems present themselves in front of our eyes?
Entertained by the prospect of investigating a problem he experiences daily, a local Fredericton teacher decided to undertake an unconventional style of research. Jeremy Smith is a fourteen year veteran in the classroom and has taught in schools all over New Brunswick as well as private schools in Toronto. Smith has recently pursued a Master's degree from the University of New Brunswick in the Faculty of Education, and currently teaches at Leo Hayes High School on Fredericton’s North side. While exploring thesis ideas, Smith decided to draw upon personal experience. Class composition for high school science classes in New Brunswick is close to Smith’s heart, and is the topic he decided to investigate.
Not all research takes place in labs. Research can happen in everyday places and be done by everyday people.
“I chose this thesis for a simple reason - I live this problem every day.” - Jeremy Smith
One of the primary problems Smith was referring to was the struggle between maintaining an inclusive environment in high school science classrooms while still being able to accommodate students and to challenge others. New Brunswick high school classrooms often contain students with a wide range of abilities. While some support may be offered in the classroom through Educational Assistants, there is often still an insatiable demand for help. This resource constraint can often result in groups of students “getting lost,” throughout the course. Students that need assistance while learning may not be getting the help they need, and students that learn quicker may be discouraged by the lack of challenge.
Smith explored this topic using a “triangle approach” in which three types of data collection come together to support a conclusion. At a variety of schools throughout the province, Smith began interviewing the teachers he would be studying about the needs in their classroom and continued by observing the teachers as they taught a class. Following this, participating teachers would journal for one week about their daily experiences in their classroom before a final interview and observation by Smith. One of the major takeaways Smith had from his time working with these teachers is that it gave them an avenue to voice concerns that was separate from that of an administrator. Smith was able to connect with the teachers he worked with through his common experiences as a teacher himself, but also able to be objective in his role as a researcher.
Ultimately, Smith would love to see resources be put in place to support the diverse needs of students in high school science classrooms. Through constant comparative analysis, Smith concluded that teachers have difficulty ensuring all students reach their full potential with the current resources and class composition models used in high school science classrooms in New Brunswick. Teachers want all students to be able to experience success, but must also be able to accommodate the needs of every student. The importance of voices being heard surrounding this issue is important, with teachers such as Smith only wanting to see all of their students have the resources to succeed to their full potential. Smith hopes that research such as this can help pave the way for improvements in the future. Newly graduated teachers will be dealing with this for years to come, as well as experienced teachers like Smith who have many years in the classroom still to go. Students would benefit from any changes that come from his research, says Smith, as any changes will greatly enhance learning based on students individual needs.
A New Brunswick high school science classroom is not a conventional research institution. However, that does not mean research cannot be conducted to solve important problems. Smith said that although there were challenges, this research allowed people who were usually separated from research to get involved. Not all research happens in conventional settings, but research such as Smith’s contribute equally and is important for evolving crucial parts of daily life such as education.