Action Research Project on Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom: Background (Part 1)

Background to Researching Graphic Novels:
As mentioned in Becoming a Graphic Novel Expert, I recently received a grant from the Minnesota Reading Association to purchase graphic novels. To aid in deciding which graphic novels I should purchase for the middle school classroom, I used a bibliography I recieved at a graphic novels conference put on by the Arrowhead Reading Council. The librarian who had created the bibliography even included what level the graphic novel was appropriate for (i.e. young reader, middle school, high school, or mature). I felt confident in my choices before having read all of them because of this resource.

I didn't have to wait long to get the books either thanks to Amazon's Prime membership. I was ecstatic when the books started arriving, and so were the studetns. They offered to help me get them ready for our class library by putting labels on them and adding them to our online database of books. I noticed that our progress was less efficient than normal because the students kept peering into the books; it was fun to watch their visible excitement over the graphic novels being added to our class library.

Cut to me deciding to turn graphic novels into a research project:
In addition to being a full-time middle school teacher, I am also working on my masters in education. As part of my masters, I have to write a Capstone on a literacy topic. After attending conferences about graphic novels, winning the grant to purchase graphic novels, and seeing my students excitement over graphic novels, I decided that would be my focus. Thus, my research question was refined to: "In light of what we know about best practices in literacy, how can we best teach in the middle school setting using graphic novels to motivate readers?"

After determining my research focus, the next step was to find relevant peer-reviewed articles. As I set about to do my research, I noticed there were lots of articles with qualitative research but I really struggled to find any quantitative resources. There seemed to be a gap between what the articles said graphic novels would do for students in the classroom and the quantitative research to support those conclusions. Nevertheless, I completed the required annotated bibliographies in preparation for writing my capstone. I then compiled the information into a PPT presentation to share with my cohort which shared my research process and important information about graphic novels.
NOTE: I hope to add the presentation to this blog at some point as both the downloadable PPT and as a video with audio, so be sure to check back!

I spoke with my professor about this gap and asked about the possibility of doing an Action Research Project, which was not required by Concordia University for our Capstone. She happily guided me through the process and constantly checked in with me to see if I had any other questions. I am eternally grateful for the help she has provided and would not have been able to do this project without her advice.

My next few posts will be spent describing the process of preparing for and implementing an Action Research project. As this is happening in real time, I have no idea what the results of my research will be. I am hopeful that graphic novels will prove quantitatively useful in the classroom, but I also want my data to reflect the truth, whatever that may be. Thus, I hope you will join my on my ACTION RESEARCH JOURNEY into graphic novels!