These seven steps, which become an endless cycle for the inquiring teacher, are the following: Selecting a focus Clarifying theories Identifying research questions Collecting data Analyzing data Reporting results Taking informed action.
The action research process begins with serious reflection directed toward identifying a topic or topics worthy of a busy teacher's time. Considering the incredible demands on today's classroom teachers, no activity is worth doing unless it promises to make the central part of a teacher's work more successful and satisfying.
Thus, selecting a focus, the first step in the process, is vitally important. Selecting a focus begins with the teacher researcher or the team of action researchers asking: What element s of our practice or what aspect of student learning do we wish to investigate? The second step involves identifying the values, beliefs, and theoretical perspectives the researchers hold relating to their focus. For example, if teachers are concerned about increasing responsible classroom behavior, it will be helpful for them to begin by clarifying which approach—using punishments and rewards, allowing students to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors, or some other strategy—they feel will work best in helping students acquire responsible classroom behavior habits.
Once a focus area has been selected and the researcher's perspectives and beliefs about that focus have been clarified, the next step is to generate a set of personally meaningful research questions to guide the inquiry. Professional educators always want their instructional decisions to be based on the best possible data. Action researchers can accomplish this by making sure that the data used to justify their actions are valid meaning the information represents what the researchers say it does and reliable meaning the researchers are confident about the accuracy of their data.
Lastly, before data are used to make teaching decisions, teachers must be confident that the lessons drawn from the data align with any unique characteristics of their classroom or school.
To ensure reasonable validity and reliability, action researchers should avoid relying on any single source of data. Most teacher researchers use a process called triangulation to enhance the validity and reliability of their findings. Basically, triangulation means using multiple independent sources of data to answer one's questions. Triangulation is like studying an object located inside a box by viewing it through various windows cut into the sides of the box. When planning instruction, teachers want the techniques they choose to be appropriate for the unique qualities of their students.
Because the data being collected come from the very students and teachers who are engaged with the treatment, the relevance of the findings is assured.
Fortunately, classrooms and schools are, by their nature, data-rich environments. Each day a child is in class, he or she is producing or not producing work, is interacting productively with classmates or experiencing difficulties in social situations, and is completing assignments proficiently or poorly. Teachers not only see these events transpiring before their eyes, they generally record these events in their grade books. The key to managing triangulated data collection is, first, to be effective and efficient in collecting the material that is already swirling around the classroom, and, second, to identify other sources of data that might be effectively surfaced with tests, classroom discussions, or questionnaires.
Although data analysis often brings to mind the use of complex statistical calculations, this is rarely the case for the action researcher. A number of relatively user-friendly procedures can help a practitioner identify the trends and patterns in action research data.
During this portion of the seven-step process, teacher researchers will methodically sort, sift, rank, and examine their data to answer two generic questions: What is the story told by these data? Why did the story play itself out this way? By answering these two questions, the teacher researcher can acquire a better understanding of the phenomenon under investigation and as a result can end up producing grounded theory regarding what might be done to improve the situation.
It is often said that teaching is a lonely endeavor. It is doubly sad that so many teachers are left alone in their classrooms to reinvent the wheel on a daily basis.
The loneliness of teaching is unfortunate not only because of its inefficiency, but also because when dealing with complex problems the wisdom of several minds is inevitably better than one. The sad history of teacher isolation may explain why the very act of reporting on their action research has proven so powerful for both the researchers and their colleagues. The reporting of action research most often occurs in informal settings that are far less intimidating than the venues where scholarly research has traditionally been shared.
Faculty meetings, brown bag lunch seminars, and teacher conferences are among the most common venues for sharing action research with peers. However, each year more and more teacher researchers are writing up their work for publication or to help fulfill requirements in graduate programs. Regardless of which venue or technique educators select for reporting on research, the simple knowledge that they are making a contribution to a collective knowledge base regarding teaching and learning frequently proves to be among the most rewarding aspects of this work.
When teachers write lesson plans or develop academic programs, they are engaged in the action planning process. What makes action planning particularly satisfying for the teacher researcher is that with each piece of data uncovered about teaching or student learning the educator will feel greater confidence in the wisdom of the next steps.
Although all teaching can be classified as trial and error, action researchers find that the research process liberates them from continuously repeating their past mistakes. More important, with each refinement of practice, action researchers gain valid and reliable data on their developing virtuosity. As stated earlier, action research can be engaged in by an individual teacher, a collaborative group of colleagues sharing a common concern, or an entire school faculty.
These three different approaches to organizing for research serve three compatible, yet distinct, purposes: Building the reflective practitioner Making progress on schoolwide priorities Building professional cultures.
When individual teachers make a personal commitment to systematically collect data on their work, they are embarking on a process that will foster continuous growth and development. When each lesson is looked on as an empirical investigation into factors affecting teaching and learning and when reflections on the findings from each day's work inform the next day's instruction, teachers can't help but develop greater mastery of the art and science of teaching.
In this way, the individual teachers conducting action research are making continuous progress in developing their strengths as reflective practitioners. Increasingly, schools are focusing on strengthening themselves and their programs through the development of common focuses and a strong sense of esprit de corps. Often an entire faculty will share a commitment to student development, yet the group finds itself unable to adopt a single common focus for action research.
This should not be viewed as indicative of a problem. Schools whose faculties cannot agree on a single research focus can still use action research as a tool to help transform themselves into a learning organization. They accomplish this in the same manner as do the physicians at the medical center. It is common practice in a quality medical center for physicians to engage in independent, even idiosyncratic, research agendas.
However, it is also common for medical researchers to share the findings obtained from their research with colleagues even those engaged in other specialties. If ever there were a time and a strategy that were right for each other, the time is now and the strategy is action research!
This is true for a host of reasons, with none more important than the need to accomplish the following: Enhance the motivation and efficacy of a weary faculty. Meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body. Teaching in North America has evolved in a manner that makes it more like blue-collar work than a professional undertaking. Although blue-collar workers are expected to do their jobs with vigilance and vigor, it is also assumed that their tasks will be routine, straightforward, and, therefore, easily handled by an isolated worker with only the occasional support of a supervisor.
Professional work, on the other hand, is expected to be complex and nonroutine, and will generally require collaboration among practitioners to produce satisfactory results. With the exploding knowledge base on teaching and learning and the heightened demands on teachers to help all children achieve mastery of meaningful objectives, the inadequacy of the blue-collar model for teaching is becoming much clearer.
When the teachers in a school begin conducting action research, their workplace begins to take on more of the flavor of the workplaces of other professionals. 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.
Is independent study a worthwhile activity for students? Does it have a positive impact on student learning and performance? As you can see from the example above, action research methodology is useful in real life situations.
It enables the researcher to find what works in his or her own situation and helps to determine ways to improve techniques. Example - Educational Setting Research Topic: The independent study project used in this research required the students to examine an ancient civilization that was a contemporary of ancient Egypt. The civilizations included the Inca, Maya, Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Phoenicians, Chinese, and Indus Valley people, and involved investigating the assigned civilization's religion, culture, agriculture, and major contributions.
Student research on the other ancient civilizations was performed in the school library during class time under the supervision of both the English and History teachers. The students were assessed on cooperative work, an oral presentation, art work, and a written report. Data for the action research project was collected on cooperative working skills, presentation performance, Egypt test results, and written report grades.
The method for collecting data on cooperative work and the presentations was observation and the completion of rubrics.
Action research can be defined as “an approach in which the action researcher and a client collaborate in the diagnosis of the problem and in the development of a solution based on the diagnosis”. In other words, one of the main characteristic traits of action research relates to.
Action research consists of a family of research methodologies which pursue action and research outcomes at the same time. It therefore has some components which resemble consultancy or change agency, and some which resemble field research.
Action research is known by many other names, including participatory research, collaborative inquiry, emancipatory research, action learning, and contextural action research, but all are variations on a theme. 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.
• Action research is a method used for improving practice. It involves action, evaluation, It involves action, evaluation, and critical reflection and – based on the evidence gathered – changes in practice. 14 Chapter Two Methodology This chapter is divided into two sections. In the first section I put forward an explanation of my understanding of action research and reflection, and a justification for using them.