Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

Sub-Department

College of Education

First Advisor

Todd Lilly

Abstract

This paper is a description of a proposed action research study driven by a problem of practice. The problem for this action research is that the teacher-researcher’s sixth-grade social studies students lack critical thinking skills. Critical thinkers are engaged and learners who analyze complex issues and challenges within society. The teacherresearcher observed her students performing well on standardized benchmarks that rely on recalling facts, while simultaneously struggling to analyze explicit and implicit information from primary and secondary sources in order to make relevant and logical conclusions. After observing sedentary teaching practices in her classroom, the teacherresearcher began to review a pragmatic theoretical framework and various research studies that discuss a relationship between kinesthetic learning and critical thinking skills. Ultimately, a research question emerged: In what ways do kinesthetic learning strategies such as embodied movement or drama affect student engagement and critical thinking skills in a sixth-grade social studies class? The research will involve two sample classes in order to enlarge the sample size with approximately twenty-two and twenty-eight sixth-grade social studies students respectively. A mixed methods design will incorporate a presurvey, field notes, two pretests-posttests, a Likert type survey, and large group interviews, all of which will focus on the effects of kinesthetic learning on students’ engagement and critical thinking skills. The researcher will implement a six-week instructional intervention consisting of frequent, subject relevant kinesthetic activities such as charades, improvisation, and role-playing. The action research design follows Mertler’s (2014) model, which includes the planning stage with an identified problem of practice, a literature review, and a research plan. In the acting stage, the researcher will collect data from a pre-project survey, two pretests and posttests, field notes, a Likert scale survey and large group interviews to determine students’ engagement and opinions regarding kinesthetic learning. Grounded coding theory will help interpret information and identify themes that emerge from the data and descriptive analyses will assist in communicating the study’s results. During the developing stage, there will be collaboration with stakeholders on an action plan with future procedures based on the action research findings. The reflecting stage will consist of an overall reflection of the project, where results will be shared with students, colleagues, and administrators. Keywords: action research, critical thinking skills, kinesthetic learning.

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