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Action research

Individual Teacher Research

❶Action-Research and the Nature of Social Inquiry: They then work to apply schoolwide inquiry in their home settings.

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What Is Action Research?
Benefits of Action Research

Faculties and individuals choosing the type of action research that will best serve their needs should consider five elements: Individual teacher research usually focuses on changes in a single classroom. A teacher defines an area or problem of interest in classroom management, instructional strategies or materials, or students' cognitive or social behavior. The teacher then seeks solutions to the problem. Students may or may not be directly involved in helping to generate alternatives and determining effects.

If parents are involved, they are usually consulted as sources of information. Individual teacher research is frequently inspired by university courses, a descriptive article about action research, or an encouraging supervisor, principal, staff development coordinator, or professor see Oja and Smulyan , Rogers et al. Because support by administrators varies by site and by their personal interest in the area being explored, external agencies often provide teachers with the needed support.

Sometimes the external agent acts as a mentor to the teacher. Some individual teacher researchers use quantitative data, developing measures and forming and testing hypotheses. They experiment with different actions fashioned to address the problem, study and record the effects of those actions, and keep, modify, or discard ways of acting based on their findings.

Some teachers use qualitative data in similar processes. A few teachers, operating more like phenomenologists, prefer to let the hypotheses emerge from the process Carr and Kemmis The primary audience for the results of individual teacher research is the teacher conducting the research.

If students have participated directly in the investigation, then they, too, form part of the primary audience. Whether the results are shared with secondary audiences through staff development presentations, professional conferences, school district newsletters, or articles in professional journals is at the discretion of the individual teacher.

The effects of individual teacher research may or may not reach outside the classroom. Several teachers within the same school may be conducting action research on a similar topic, but they may or may not discuss their experiences and results.

The amount of sharing depends on the collegiality of the individuals. Where such sharing occurs, collegiality at the school may be enhanced. Depending on the numbers of teachers involved, collaborative action research can focus on problems and changes in a single classroom or on a problem occurring in several classrooms.

A research team might even take on a districtwide problem, but focus its inquiry on classrooms. The research team may include as few as two persons, or it may include several teachers and administrators working with staff from a university or other external agency. The team follows the same investigative and reflective cycle as the individual teacher-researcher. Teachers and administrators often work with university staff, intermediate service agency personnel, or members of an educational consortium when doing collaborative action research Holly , Sagor , Whitford et al.

Collaborative action research frequently involves school-university partnerships and mutual support from each participating organization see Allen et al. The relationship is similar to the interactive research and development framework of the late s Tikunoff and Mergendoller Teachers engaged in collaborative action research generally volunteer to participate or seek out affiliation with local university personnel who have expertise in particular curriculum areas.

Professors, district office personnel, or principals may recruit teachers to explore an area in need of improvement or to field-test promising approaches. Recruiting teachers for field-testing is especially prevalent when agency personnel initiate the study. As in individual teacher research, the data utilized by collaborative action researchers may be qualitative or quantitative.

Data are more likely to be quantitative if the central office or intermediate service agency defines the study area. The larger collaborative research team might also use a greater variety of methods than the individual teacher-researcher and divide the labor, focusing on different dimensions of a problem.

For example, in a study of disciplinary action, one member might survey parents, a second member might interview teachers, and a third might count referrals and organize them by cause and consequences. The members of the research team are the primary audience for results from collaborative action research. Depending on their involvement in formulating and shaping the investigation, students and parents may form part of the primary audience. If the school administration, the district office, or a university sponsored the research, then these groups also form part of the primary audience.

Collaborative action researchers appear to share results with secondary audiences more frequently than do individual teacher researchers and participants in schoolwide action research. This may result from the involvement of university personnel in the process, who, besides providing support to teachers, are exploring their own areas of professional interest.

Because their university positions require them to generate and share knowledge, university personnel often have more time to write about the action research experience and more opportunities to present the results. This writing and presentation is often done in collaboration with one or more of the participating practitioners.

While the work between school or district practitioners and university personnel is collaborative and mutually beneficial, a major benefit to practitioners is the almost tutorial role university personnel play in helping them develop the tools of social science inquiry. Some groups stay together for several years, conducting several studies in areas of common interest, while their technical skills and expertise in inquiry continue to grow.

Such collaboration also generally improves collegiality. In schoolwide action research, a school faculty selects an area or problem of collective interest, then collects, organizes, and interprets on-site data. Data from other schools, districts, or the professional literature are funneled into the collective decision-making process of the faculty, who then determines the actions to be taken.

The process is cyclic and can serve as a formative evaluation of the effects of the actions taken. Schoolwide action research focuses on school improvement in three areas. First, it seeks to improve the organization as a problem-solving entity.

With repeated cycles, it is hoped that faculty members will become better able to work together to identify and solve problems. Second, schoolwide research tries to improve equity for students. For example, if the faculty studies the writing process in order to offer better instructional opportunities for students, the intent is that all students benefit.

Third, schoolwide action research tries to increase the breadth and content of the inquiry itself. Every classroom and teacher is involved in collective study and assessment. In addition, faculty members may involve students, parents, and even the general community in data collection and interpretation and in the selection of options for action.

A school executive council or leadership team composed of teachers and administrators often shares the responsibility for keeping the process moving. These leaders spur the collecting, organizing, and interpretation of the data, disseminate on-site data and applicable professional literature for collective analysis and study, and support the actions selected for implementation by the learning community.

School leadership teams or district administrators often initiate schoolwide inquiry because of their affiliation with a consortium that promotes action research as a major school improvement strategy. Through exposure to consortiums such as the Center for Leadership in School Reform in Kentucky or the League of Professional Schools in Georgia, school leaders read about schoolwide inquiry, attend awareness sessions, or discuss it with peers who are using it.

They then work to apply schoolwide inquiry in their home settings. The data gathered from studying the school site and the effects of actions taken may be quantitative, qualitative, or both. The data collection can be as simple as counting types of writing elicited from students or as complex as a multi-year case study. Faculty members might divide the labor as in the case of collaborative action research.

They might also reach out to other schools studying similar problems and trying the same or different solutions. For greatest effect, the data should be collected regularly, and evaluation of actions taken should be formative. Relying on summative evaluations such as yearly norm-referenced tests will lessen the dynamism of the process.

Standard tests, however, can be used to corroborate the results of the formative studies. Mostly, though, in accordance with its principles, it is chosen when circumstances require flexibility, the involvement of the people in the research, or change must take place quickly or holistically.

It is often the case that those who apply this approach are practitioners who wish to improve understanding of their practice, social change activists trying to mount an action campaign, or, more likely, academics who have been invited into an organization or other domain by decision-makers aware of a problem requiring action research, but lacking the requisite methodological knowledge to deal with it.

The main research paradigm for the past several centuries has been that of Logical Positivism. This paradigm is based on a number of principles, including: Phenomena are subject to natural laws that humans discover in a logical manner through empirical testing, using inductive and deductive hypotheses derived from a body of scientific theory. Its methods rely heavily on quantitative measures, with relationships among variables commonly shown by mathematical means.

Positivism, used in scientific and applied research, has been considered by many to be the antithesis of the principles of action research Susman and Evered , Winter Over the last half century, a new research paradigm has emerged in the social sciences to break out of the constraints imposed by positivism.

With its emphasis on the relationship between socially-engendered concept formation and language, it can be referred to as the Interpretive paradigm. Containing such qualitative methodological approaches as phenomenology, ethnography, and hermeneutics , it is characterized by a belief in a socially constructed, subjectively-based reality, one that is influenced by culture and history.

Nonetheless it still retains the ideals of researcher objectivity, and researcher as passive collector and expert interpreter of data. Though sharing a number of perspectives with the interpretive paradigm, and making considerable use of its related qualitative methodologies, there are some researchers who feel that neither it nor the positivist paradigms are sufficient epistemological structures under which to place action research Lather , Morley Rather, a paradigm of Praxis is seen as where the main affinities lie.

Praxis, a term used by Aristotle, is the art of acting upon the conditions one faces in order to change them. It deals with the disciplines and activities predominant in the ethical and political lives of people. Aristotle contrasted this with Theoria - those sciences and activities that are concerned with knowing for its own sake. Both are equally needed he thought.

That knowledge is derived from practice, and practice informed by knowledge, in an ongoing process, is a cornerstone of action research. Action researchers also reject the notion of researcher neutrality, understanding that the most active researcher is often one who has most at stake in resolving a problematic situation.

A German social and experimental psychologist, and one of the founders of the Gestalt school, he was concerned with social problems, and focused on participative group processes for addressing conflict, crises, and change, generally within organizations.

Eric Trist, another major contributor to the field from that immediate post-war era, was a social psychiatrist whose group at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London engaged in applied social research, initially for the civil repatriation of German prisoners of war. He and his colleagues tended to focus more on large-scale, multi-organizational problems.

Both Lewin and Trist applied their research to systemic change in and between organizations. They emphasized direct professional - client collaboration and affirmed the role of group relations as basis for problem-solving. Both were avid proponents of the principle that decisions are best implemented by those who help make them.

The growing importance of labour-management relations led to the application of action research in the areas of Organization Development, Quality of Working Life QWL , Socio-technical systems e. This traditional approach tends toward the conservative, generally maintaining the status quo with regards to organizational power structures.

It is c ontextural, insofar as it entails reconstituting the structural relations among actors in a social environment; domain-based, in that it tries to involve all affected parties and stakeholders; holographic, as each participant understands the working of the whole; and it stresses that participants act as project designers and co-researchers.

The concept of organizational ecology, and the use of search conferences come out of contextural action research, which is more of a liberal philosophy, with social transformation occurring by consensus and normative incrementalism. Participatory Action Research, often found in liberationist movements and international development circles, and Feminist Action Research both strive for social transformation via an advocacy process to strengthen peripheral groups in society.

A fourth stream, that of Educational Action Research, has its foundations in the writings of John Dewey, the great American educational philosopher of the s and 30s, who believed that professional educators should become involved in community problem-solving.

Its practitioners, not surprisingly, operate mainly out of educational institutions, and focus on development of curriculum, professional development, and applying learning in a social context.

It is often the case that university-based action researchers work with primary and secondary school teachers and students on community projects. Action Research is more of a holistic approach to problem-solving, rather than a single method for collecting and analyzing data. Thus, it allows for several different research tools to be used as the project is conducted. These various methods, which are generally common to the qualitative research paradigm, include: Of all of the tools utilized by action researchers, the one that has been developed exclusively to suit the needs of the action research approach is that of the search conference, initially developed by Eric Trist and Fred Emery at the Tavistock Institute in , and first implemented for the merger of Bristol-Siddley Aircraft Engines in Search conferences also have been conducted for many different circumstances and participants, including: Eric Trist sums up the process quite nicely -.

The group meets under social island conditions for days, sometimes as long as five. The opening sessions are concerned with elucidating the factors operating in the wider contextual environment - those producing the meta-problems and likely to affect the future. The content is contributed entirely by the members. The staff are facilitators only. Items are listed in the first instance without criticism in the plenary session and displayed on flip charts which surround the room.

The material is discussed in greater depth in small groups and the composite picture checked out in plenary. The group next examines its own organizational setting or settings against this wider background and then proceeds to construct a picture of a desirable future.

It is surprising how much agreement there often is. Only when all this has been done is consideration given to action steps Figure 3 provides a schematic of a typical search conference. Small group session 1. Small group session 2. Small group session 3. Task Group reports, discuss future contacts, create new Advisory Group.

Figure 3 - Search Conference. To accomplish this, it may necessitate the adoption of many different roles at various stages of the process, including those of. The main role, however, is to nurture local leaders to the point where they can take responsibility for the process. This point is reached they understand the methods and are able to carry on when the initiating researcher leaves.

Because action research is carried out in real-world circumstances, and involves close and open communication among the people involved, the researchers must pay close attention to ethical considerations in the conduct of their work.

Richard Winter lists a number of principles: To this might be added several more points: To better illustrate how action research can proceed, three case studies are presented. Action research projects are generally situationally unique, but there are elements in the methods that can be used by other researchers in different circumstances. The first case study, an account taken from the writings of one of the researchers involved Franklin , involves a research project to stimulate the development of nature tourism services in the Caribbean.

It represents a fairly typical example of an action research initiative. The second and third case studies centre around the use of computer communications, and therefore illustrate a departure from the norm in this regard. They are presented following a brief overview of this potentially promising technical innovation. In , an action research process was initiated to explore how nature tourism could be instituted on each of the four Windward Islands in the Caribbean - St.

Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, and St. The government took the lead, for environmental conservation, community-based development, and national economic development purposes. Two action researchers from York University in Toronto, with prior experience in the region, were hired to implement the project, with a majority of the funding coming from the Canadian International Development Agency. Multi-stakeholder national advisory councils were formed, and national project coordinators selected as local project liaisons.

Their first main task was to organize a search conference on each island. At this point, extended advisory groups were formed on several of the islands, and national awareness activities and community sub-projects were implemented in some cases. To maintain the process, regional project meetings were held, where project coordinators and key advisory members shared experiences, conducted self-evaluations and developed plans for maintaining the process e. One of the more valuable tools for building a sense of community was the use of a videocamera to create a documentary video of a local project.

Vincent the research project was highly successful, with several viable local developments instituted. Lucia showed mixed outcomes, and Dominica was the least successful, the process curtailed by the government soon after the search conference took place. There is always a risk that this kind of research will empower stakeholders, and change existing power relations, the threat of which is too much for some decision-makers, but if given the opportunity, there are many things that a collaborative group of citizens can accomplish that might not be possible otherwise.

In the past ten years or so, there has been a marked increase in the number of organizations that are making use of information technology and computer mediated communications.

This has led to a number of convergences between information systems and action research. In some cases, it has been a matter of managers of corporate networks employing action research techniques to facilitate large-scale changes to their information systems.

In others, it has been a question of community-based action research projects making use of computer communications to broaden participation. The emergence of the Internet has led to an explosion of asynchronous and aspatial group communication in the form of e-mail and computer conferences, and recently, v-mail and video conferencing.

While there have been numerous attempts to use this new technology in assisting group learning, both within organizations and among groups in the community [this author has been involved with a dozen or more projects of this kind in the nonprofit sector in Canada alone], there is a dearth of published studies on the use of action research methods in such projects Lau and Hayward , in a recent review of the literature, found that most research on group support systems to date has been in short-term, experimental situations using quantitative methods..

There are a few examples, though, of longitudinal studies in naturalistic settings using qualitative methods; of those that did use action research, none studied the use and effects of communication systems in groups and organizations.

We can now to turn to the case studies, both of which are situated in an area in need of more research - that of the use of information technology as a potentially powerful adjunct to action research processes.

Lau and Hayward used an action research approach in a study of their own to explore the structuration of Internet-based collaborative work groups. Over a two-year period, the researchers participated as facilitators in three action research cycles of problem-solving among approximately 15 instructors and project staff, and 25 health professionals from various regions striving to make a transition to a more community-based health program.

The aim was to explore how Internet-based communications would influence their evolution into a virtual collaborative workgroup. The first phase was taken up with defining expectations, providing the technology and developing the customized workgroup system.

Feedback from participants noted that shorter and more spaced training sessions, with instructions more focused on specific projects would have been more helpful. The next phase saw the full deployment of the system, and the main lesson learned was that the steepness of the learning curve was severely underestimated, with frustrations only minimally satisfied by a great deal of technical support provided by telephone.

The final cycle saw the stabilization of the system and the emergence of the virtual groups. The researchers found that those who used the system interactively were more likely to establish projects that were collaborative in nature, and that the lack of high quality information on community healthcare online was a drawback. The participants reported learning a great deal from the initiative. The interpretations of the study suggest that role clarity, relationship building, information sharing, resource support, and experiential learning are important aspects in virtual group development.

There was also a sense that more research was needed on how group support systems can help groups interact with their external environment, as well as on how to enhance the process of learning by group members. Comstock and Fox have written about their experiences in integrating computer conferencing into a learning community for mid-career working adults attending a Graduate Management Program at Antioch University in Seattle.

From to , the researchers and their students made use of a dial-up computer conferencing system called Caucus to augment learning outside of monthly classroom weekends. Their findings relate to establishing boundaries to interaction, creating a caring community, and building collaborative learning. Boundary setting was a matter of both defined membership, i.

The architecture of the online environment was equated to that of a house, in which locked rooms allowed for privacy, but hampered interaction. They suggest some software design changes that would provide more cues and flexibility to improve access and usage.

Relationships in a caring community were fostered by caring talk, personal conversations and story telling. Over time, expressions of personal concern for other participants increased, exemplifying a more tightly-knit group. These processes provided the support and induced the trust needed to sustain the more in-depth collaborative learning taking place. Students were expected to use the system for collaborative learning using three forms of conversation - dialogue, discussion and critical reflection.

Dialogues were enjoined as a result of attempts to relate classroom lessons to personal situations at work, with a better understanding provided by multiple opinions. Discussions, distinguished by the goal of making a group decision or taking an action, required a fair degree of moderation, insofar as participants found it difficult to reach closure.

The process of reflecting critically on ideas was also difficult - participants rarely took the time to analyze postings, preferring a more immediate, and more superficial, conversational style.

The authors conclude with four recommendations: The characteristics of the new information technologies, especially that of computer conferencing, which allows group communications to take place outside of the bounds of time and space, have the potential to be well suited to action research.

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Action research design is an educational research involving collecting information regarding current educational programs and outcomes, analyzing the information, developing a plan to improve it, collecting changes after a new plan is implemented, and developing conclusions regarding the improvements. The main purpose.

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Chapter 5: Three Types of Action Research. by Glen Doyle Action research is a powerful tool that can improve the quality of an organization. Through action research the researcher collects data to diagnose problems, search for solutions, take action on developed solutions, and monitor how well the action worked.

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Selecting one type of action research over another has important implications for the school renewal process. From my work with action research as a consultant, coordinator, and researcher, I have gathered data on action research from 76 schools in three states. Action research is often used in the field of education. The following lesson provides two examples of action research in the field of education, methods of conducting action research and a quiz.

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Action research is defined as using research activities to develop concrete societal practices. Action research understands the change of practice as being already a central aim of the research. Action Research is an “on the spot research aimed at the solution of an immediate classroom problem.” Kurt Lewin says, “Action Research is applying scientific thinking to real life problems (classroom problems for teachers) and represents a great improvement over teacher’s subjective judgments and their limited personal experiences.”.