My favorite definition of Action research is the one by Emily Calhoun (1994). It says: “Action research is a fancy way of saying “let’s study what’s happening at our school and decide how to make it a better place.””.
The main phases of Action Research consist in:
- Assessment of the need for a change or action;
- Implementation the action;
- Study and evaluate the results of that action (i.e. draw conclusions);
- Rethinking phases 1, 2 and 3. This last will be optional at some point, once the desired outcome is attained.
Action research presumes that the researcher is undertaking their research for a specific and relevant purpose. This purpose could be general e.g. “to improve the teaching at our school” and is later made more specific by selecting an area of focus prior to engaging in the research. Alternatively, the purpose or need could already be known, and it is decided that action research (or investigation with trial and error and feedback) is required to respond to and identify the cause of this need, e.g. “a student is having severe difficulty with acquiring reading skills”.
The reason ‘action research’ has become a ‘buzz’ word recently is because it refers to a particular kind of research which is conducted by the person who is most interested in discovering its conclusions and because the modified actions will likely be put into practice immediately. “The wisdom that informs practice starts coming from those doing the work, not from supervisors who oftentimes are less in touch with and less sensitive to the issues of teaching and learning than the teachers doing the work.” (Richard Sagor, 2000). In a sense, action research is a more informal and instantaneous type of research.
Some educators prefer to conceptualize action research as a seven step process where each step is more clearly defined.
The Action Research Process
- Selecting a focus
- Clarifying theories
- Identifying research questions
- Collecting data
- Analyzing data
- Reporting results
- Taking informed action
In more detail, each step consists in:
- Selecting a focus: To use the researcher’s time and efforts in the more efficient and effective way.
- Clarifying theories: Identifying the values, beliefs, and theoretical perspectives the researchers hold relating to their focus.
- Identifying research questions: To generate a set of personally meaningful research questions to guide the inquiry.
- Collecting data: Ensuring that the data used is
- valid (meaning the information represents what the researchers say it does) and
- reliable (meaning the researchers are confident about the accuracy of their data).
- Evaluating the validity and reliability of data may be done using triangulation (which means using multiple independent sources of data to answer one’s questions).
- Analyzing data: User-friendly data can be a boon to a researcher.
- Reporting results:
- Interpreting results with others
- Discussing results with others
- Relaying and sharing results with others for the benefits of their insights and to improve the collective knowledge base.
- Taking informed action: Planning the course of action and steps to take. Constantly refining these actions.
Action research is powerful because it transforms a teacher into a reflective practitioner, it facilitates teacher progress on school-wide priorities and it helps construct a professional teaching culture. “Furthermore, when teachers begin engaging their colleagues in discussions of classroom issues, the multiple perspectives that emerge and thus frame the dialogue tend to produce wiser professional decisions.” (Richard Sagor, 2000) In addition, a powerful argument for action research and the collection and analysis of data is that for teachers, as has been found with athletes, “the continuous presence of compelling data that their hard work is paying off becomes, in itself, a vitally energizing force. […] Great personal satisfaction comes from playing a role in creating successful solutions to continually changing puzzles.” (Richard Sagor, 2000)
Acknowledgement of my Understanding of the Requirements for the Final Project
The purposes of the Final Project are to:
- Enable candidates to increase their knowledge in an educational topic of their choosing,
- To use this knowledge to improve their teaching, and
- To develop skills they can use for future activities.
My Final Project must focus on some aspect of globalization or ‘international mindedness’ which is relevant to education in general or to my specific situation. I understand that my Final Project will consist in original work completed by me, and submitted in the form of a written report or action plan in Microsoft Word format. This Final Project will involve the collection of data and critical analysis both of my findings and of previous research done in the field.
There are up to seven sections within the Project Report, as detailed in the document Teach-Now’s Guidelines and Rubric for the Module 14 Final Project (as received by me on 3rd December 2017, but modified for user-friendliness or ease of reading see the link to document here).
- Introduction and Statement of Problem or Question
This section of the Report clearly describes the specific problem or question that is being addressed in the project and describes its significance and its purpose.
- Literature Review
This section of the Report presents a carefully organized account of the research relevant to my project, including a section that summarizes the reasons why these studies are pertinent to my project.
- Description of the Project
This section provides the layout and sequence of the project with sufficient detail that someone could replicate the project just by reading this section.
- Analysis of the Results
In this section, I will evaluate the results and answer questions such as what I learned from this project and what I expected to learn but did not learn.
- Summary and Considerations of Next Steps (Action Plan)
This section is a brief summarize of my findings which takes into consideration how your project connects with what was previously understood about the issue. I will also explain here any limitations and factors which were out of my control and which may have impacted my results.
In this section, I will list in American Psychological Association (APA) style format all references cited in the document and all sources used for my research.
The Appendices are where I will include any important material used within the study such as data collection tools or intervention materials.
The expected length of the Project Report is between twenty and thirty pages. I acknowledge that this Project must be completed and submitted by me by the end of Module 14, which is in ten weeks’ time (by Saturday 17th February 2018). I will assume that every page of writing will have involved between at least one hour and at most two hours of research and commitment. Thirty pages therefore represent between thirty and sixty hours of research and commitment. Erring on the side of caution and preparation, I therefore commit to dedicate six hours to my Final Project each week henceforth until the due date in mid-February 2018. I believe that with such a time commitment I should achieve my objective of completing this project to a quality satisfactory to me, within the allocated timeframe and prior to the deadline date.
My Ideas for my Final Project
- With globalization, the U.S. has set the standard in many areas of commerce, scientific research and academia. The American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) reference format is the accepted standard for citing sources and reference material. However, I feel that APA format has completely ignored the way in which people perceive surnames and that the world is not made up of only Americans. I would like to study how people perceive gender in surnames. I suspect that many surnames (regardless of origin) are perceived as being masculine. This would not be a surprising assumption considering that most societies are patrilineal and pass down the man’s surname to their children and many women still substitute or add husband’s surname to their own names. Furthermore, many surnames also serve as male first names. Educational research has demonstrated that students perform better if they can identify with the studies they are doing. We tend to forget that adults are also subject to perceptions. My hope is that the results of this paper may serve as motivation to make slight changes to APA format so that first names would also be listed. This would enhance women and girls “seeing” women as a presence in academia. Further studies: leaving off the state and country name when it is a city within the U.S.
- Research why boys are not responding as well and wanting to do things like United World Colleges. Why does it seem that many ‘gay’ boys more likely to succeed in this setting? Is it because boys need competition? Do they not respond as well in service oriented things (and men too) or collaborative things, like girls seem to do? Why are some charitable (including religious) organizations successful in having male membership (e.g. Kiwanis, Junior Achievement) and others are not? How can we get men to participate fully in the society (e.g. Parent Teacher Associations, etc.) and value family?
- Research intercultural literacy, cultural capital and the imposter syndrome with reference to the high drop-out rate (abandonment of school after grade 6) among rural children in the world, concentrating on the case of Costa Rica. (See paper on high expectations written in Teach-Now’s Module 4).
I anticipate that the biggest challenge with my project will be the timeframe. Because of the timeframe, the scope of the project may have to be severely restricted and this could affect the validity of my research and its persuasiveness as an instrument for reform. I am comfortable with this challenge because I feel my project will only be the beginning of research within the topic I have chosen. The goal if for more researchers to undertake similar projects until the results of the research are irrefutable and engender real change within the educational system.
Padak, Nancy & Padak, Gary. (2017-09-28). Research to Practice: Guidelines for Planning Action Research Projects. Ohio Literacy Resource Center (OLRC), Kent State University. Retrieved from http://literacy.kent.edu/Oasis/Pubs/0200-08.htm
Rigsby, Leo. (2015). Presentation on Action Research: How is it defined? Initiatives in Educational Transformation Program (IET). George Mason University. Retrieved from http://gse.gmu.edu/assets/media/tr/ARRigsbyppt.htm
Sagor, Richard. (2000). Guiding School Improvement with Action Research. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/What-Is-Action-Research¢.aspx
Teach-Now Educatore School of Education. (2017). Master’s of Education Program – Guidelines and Rubric for the Module 14 Final Project. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/open?id=1HENDXgi7azEuAJiwYTWzdhE07p9jRnYHL6nDwg5N_Oo