I love teacher research. My county has an organized research program every year that brings together groups of teachers who want to look deeply into their practice. I did this for years at The Think Tank (my former school) and always found it made a huge impact on my practice. It changed how I looked at teaching- taking it from a formula of delivery to a practice of inquiry where everything done in the classroom can be examined, studied, tweaked, and reflected upon.
This year we started the program at my new school and I must admit that our monthly meetings were often my motivation to get through tough weeks. They embodied what I love most about the profession- critically thinking about how to do the best that we can for kids despite whatever roadblocks are in our way. We came together, shared what we were working on, listened to one another problem solve and reflect together and always left with more energy than we came with. There is something empowering as a teacher to be able to look at your practice and say "what if?" in order to get better results. When you are motivated to constantly change your practice to do what's best for kids is when true teaching happens. It's reflective and thoughtful- and data driven for the right reasons.
The difference between teacher research and scholarly research is that we are not held to the strict structure of scholarly practice. We can't be- it wouldn't be ethical. If we found something wasn't working we wouldn't keep doing it to get our data- we'd change to do what's best for our students. It's action research, which of course can't be considered in the same field as more scholarly qualitative research but it still has a place in the field.
Last night left me energized and proud of my profession. I loved watching such caring and responsive educators discuss the great practices they are using. It made me excited to get back in the game (eventually! Still enjoying maternity leave for now!)