Research is central
to the ACCELA mission of social change through and for education.
The form of research we engage in is called Praxis. Praxis
differs from traditional conceptions of research in that
theory, practice, research and action are not separated
but engaged in by all participants simultaneously and directly.
Traditionally, theory, research, action, and practice are
conceptualized as separate activities, each informing the
other indirectly: Theory informs research, which informs
action (policy), which informs practice (teaching), which
research examines to inform theory. Following a praxis model,
ACCELA participants, however, engage in all phases of the
research-practice continuum by systematically and critically
examining their own practice, as defined by their role in
their institution, but also by examining how their practice
relates to the full institutional and cultural system in
which it isembedded.
Whether a teacher, administrator, researcher, paraprofessional,
or teacher educator, the aim is to not only make practices
more effective and efficient but also more equitable and
To support a Praxis that will impact the districts of Holyoke and Springfield and the university, ACCELA developed a structure by which those with different but connected institutional and cross institutional roles work together. The first critical element of the structure is cross-institutional collaboration. By embedding inquiry-based degree and licensure programs in the districts of Holyoke and Springfield, university and district participants work with one another directly so it is possible to see first-hand the impact of our related work, which in and by itself begins to change the practices of the university and the school districts. In these classes and meeting places, local data, collected systematically by practitioners with the help of research assistants, is critically examined through the lenses of traditional research literature and local knowledge. The central questions guiding our discussions are: when you look very closely and systematically at classroom data, how are English Language Learners (ELLs) and their teachers impacted by extant practices, how are these practices related to the larger context, what are alternative ways to view these practices, who is benefiting from the status quo, and what specific changes might create better and more equitable access for these particular learners? Based on these critical discussions, practitioners modify their own practices, document the changes, and propose how the system could better support changes that are making a difference in student learning.
The second critical element of the structure is the ACCELA Dialogue, a cross-institutional space in which small groups of participants, located in different places in the university and the districts of Holyoke and Springfield, discuss how institutional practices relate and jointly impact the learning of ELLs. The dialogue begins with practitioners presenting their studies of their own practice including changes they made, the impact of these changes on student learning, and their reflections on how the wider system appears to impact their ability to meet the needs of their specific learners. Issues raised by the practitioners are discussed in association with related institutional changes that are needed to support teacher and student learning.
The third critical element of the structure is the formation of writing teams to study in more depth critical issues that emerge from Praxis. The teams re-examine the data collected across classrooms, conceptualize broader implications for student learning, and publish with the aim of informing equitable Praxis more widely in the district and beyond.