A practitioner inquiry capstone student working on her Action Plan reflections
Program Insights

Practitioner Inquiry and Self-Reflection: Concordia Capstone Course

By Kara Wyman, MEd October 3, 2018

When working in education, it’s easy to get caught up in student challenges and successes and our very long to-do lists. Carving out time to stop and reflect is a key component of professional growth. In Concordia University-Portland’s MEd programs, all candidates complete a capstone research experience and one option is EDGR 696: Practitioner Inquiry. This course is designed to help you improve your practice through self-reflection. To learn more about it, I spoke with Concordia professor Lori Sanchez, EdD.

Professor Lori Sanchez, EdD

Professor Lori Sanchez, EdD

What does this course entail?

All candidates in Concordia’s MEd programs will complete a required capstone research experience. In most programs, candidates can choose between the Action Research course or the Practitioner Inquiry course. EDGR 696: Practitioner Inquiry allows candidates to look inside their own practices and reflect on improvements that can be made to teaching practices. The goal of this course is to look inside one’s self in order to increase intrapersonal intelligence and experience professional growth.

What’s the difference between the two capstone courses offered?

Both capstone courses (EDGR 698: Action Research and EDGR 696: Practitioner Inquiry) are equally beneficial and rigorous. Action Research focuses on integrating theory into personal daily practice while examining relevant issues in one’s own setting to find meaningful, practical, research-based answers. Practitioner Inquiry focuses on teacher self-study; candidates reflect on their own knowledge, experiences, and curiosities for further learning; not on the actions and data generated by their students.

Both courses empower candidates to identify issues or problems in practice, review relevant literature that examines identified issues or problems, and design a research-based plan with the potential to improve practice. Action Research looks to improve one’s setting through daily practice, whereas Practitioner Inquiry looks to improve one’s personal knowledge.

Who would benefit the most from Practitioner Inquiry?

Practitioner Inquiry is a great choice for candidates who are highly reflective and interested in focusing on improving themselves as an education professional.

Candidates who take this course don’t necessarily need to be classroom teachers to benefit from it. Anyone can analyze and reflect through this type of self-study, which can lead to powerful, individualized professional development.

What is an example of the reading material?

There is not a required textbook for this course. The reading materials are articles provided each week as well as what candidates will research to create the literature review.

What are some examples of assignments?

Here are some examples of what candidates will complete in Practitioner Inquiry:

  1. Literature Review (utilizing a minimum of 10 sources)
  2. Action Plan (the actions that will be implemented to answer the research question)
  3. Literature Matrix (adding to the matrix they created in EDGR 601: Educational Research with at least 12 sources)
  4. Reflections on the Action Plan

What are some of the interesting research topics students have explored?

The research topics are endless. Each candidate picks a topic to increase personal knowledge.

Some examples are:

  • Improving parental involvement
  • Homeschooling: How to establish a routine
  • Integrating character education into daily lessons
  • Working with newcomers in a general education classroom
  • Integrating technology into lessons
  • Interactive math lessons
  • Working with incredibly shy/introverted students
  • Strategies for working with students who have specific behavior issues
  • Learning new teaching strategies

How can students apply what they learn in this course to their profession?

This course is about personal and professional development. It focuses on improving one’s knowledge in an area in which the candidate feels the potential for growth is available. Since candidates choose their topic of study, they will be able to apply what’s learned in this course to their profession.

What’s your favorite aspect of this course?

My favorite aspect of this course is seeing teachers make the switch from focusing on their students to focusing on themselves. As educators, we spend our schooling years and profession focusing on our students and student improvement. This course gives teachers the opportunity to step back and put themselves at the center of their learning. This course gives the candidate the opportunity to create his/her own professional development plan, focusing on an individual need.

What do you enjoy most about working with Concordia’s MEd candidates?

I love that I get to spend my career cultivating a love of learning and teaching. What I enjoy most about working with MEd candidates is the passion they bring to the classroom. I learn as much from them as they learn from me. Candidates join our program to improve their craft. Our MEd candidates are dedicated to being professionals who truly transform their students’ lives.

Feedback from Cavaliers

“It was mostly a self-study, reflecting on your practice and methods for your setting. Lori Sanchez was my instructor and always available for questions and assistance. She was an amazing instructor.” – Jennifer

“Practitioner Inquiry was one of my favorite classes and Dr. Sanchez really helped me. You do a lot of searching and writing and refining and, in the end, it’s so satisfying to discover more of who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing.” – Mischelle

“I was glad I took Practitioner Inquiry! It was a great experience and was so applicable to my job!” – Kimberly

“When I was enrolled in the master’s program in 2015, my goal was to become a better writing/language teacher. I have spent countless hours contemplating and planning so I can be better for my students. I’m proud to say that 83% of my students, first-time testers, passed the English II EOC (STAAR) Test. It’s a small step in the right direction, but I’m ecstatic about it. I credit the program (Practitioner Inquiry) for giving me the tools and direction I needed to begin the journey.” – Auz’annette

Kara Wyman earned a MEd and a BA from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She spent a decade working with adolescents as an English teacher, the founder, and director of a drama program, a curriculum designer, and a project manager for a teen-centered nonprofit organization. She’s served as the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland and is now the managing editor of Concordia’s Room 241 blog.

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