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Action research

The Action Research Process

❶At every cycle, the research process includes these four stages, with deepening experience and knowledge of the initial proposition, or of new propositions. Subscribe to ASCD Express , our free e-mail newsletter, to have practical, actionable strategies and information delivered to your e-mail inbox twice a month.

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Three Purposes for Action Research


Perhaps even more important is the fact that action research helps educators be more effective at what they care most about—their teaching and the development of their students.

Seeing students grow is probably the greatest joy educators can experience. When teachers have convincing evidence that their work has made a real difference in their students' lives, the countless hours and endless efforts of teaching seem worthwhile.

Educational action research can be engaged in by a single teacher, by a group of colleagues who share an interest in a common problem, or by the entire faculty of a school. Whatever the scenario, action research always involves the same seven-step process. 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.

Action research is either research initiated to solve an immediate problem or a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a " community of practice " to improve the way they address issues and solve problems.

Action research involves actively participating in a change situation, often via an existing organization, whilst simultaneously conducting research. Action research can also be undertaken by larger organizations or institutions, assisted or guided by professional researchers, with the aim of improving their strategies, practices and knowledge of the environments within which they practice.

As designers and stakeholders, researchers work with others to propose a new course of action to help their community improve its work practices. Kurt Lewin , then a professor at MIT , first coined the term "action research" in In his paper "Action Research and Minority Problems" he described action research as "a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action and research leading to social action" that uses "a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of a circle of planning, action and fact-finding about the result of the action".

This tension exists between. Action research challenges traditional social science by moving beyond reflective knowledge created by outside experts sampling variables, to an active moment-to-moment theorizing, data collecting and inquiry occurring in the midst of emergent structure.

From this starting point, to question the validity of social knowledge is to question, not how to develop a reflective science about action, but how to develop genuinely well-informed action — how to conduct an action science". Chris Argyris ' action science begins with the study of how human beings design their actions in difficult situations.

Humans design their actions to achieve intended consequences and are governed by a set of environment variables. How those governing variables are treated in designing actions are the key differences between single-loop and double-loop learning. When actions are designed to achieve the intended consequences and to suppress conflict about the governing variables, a single-loop learning cycle usually ensues.

On the other hand, when actions are taken not only to achieve the intended consequences, but also to openly inquire about conflict and to possibly transform the governing variables, both single- and double-loop learning cycles usually ensue.

Argyris applies single- and double-loop learning concepts not only to personal behaviors but also to organizational behaviors in his models.

This is different from experimental research in which environmental variables are controlled and researchers try to find out cause and effect in an isolated environment.

Cooperative, aka collaborative, inquiry was first proposed by John Heron in and later expanded with Peter Reason and Demi Brown. The major idea is to "research 'with' rather than 'on' people. Cooperative inquiry creates a research cycle among 4 different types of knowledge: At every cycle, the research process includes these four stages, with deepening experience and knowledge of the initial proposition, or of new propositions.

Participatory action research has emerged in recent years as a significant methodology for intervention, development and change within groups and communities. It is now promoted and implemented by many international development agencies and university programs, as well as countless local community organizations around the world. This was further developed in "adult education" models throughout Latin America. Orlando Fals-Borda — , Colombian sociologist and political activist, was one of the principal promoters of participatory action research IAP in Spanish in Latin America.

He published a "double history of the coast", book that compares the official "history" and the non-official "story" of the north coast of Colombia. William Barry Atkins and Wallace defined an approach to action research which focuses on creating ontological weight. Barry was influenced by Jean McNiff's and Jack Whitehead's phraseology of living theory action research but was diametrically opposed to the validation process advocated by Whitehead which demanded video "evidence" of "energy flowing values" and his atheistic ontological position which influenced his conception of values in action research.

Barry explained that living educational theory LET "[It is] a critical and transformational approach to action research. It confronts the researcher to challenge the status quo of their educational practice and to answer the question, 'How can I improve that I'm doing? The mission of the LET action researcher is to overcome workplace norms and self-behavior which contradict the researcher's values and beliefs. The vision of the LET researcher is to make an original contribution to knowledge through generating an educational theory proven to improve the learning of people within a social learning space.

The standard of judgment for theory validity is evidence of workplace reform, transformational growth of the researcher, and improved learning by the people researcher claimed to have influenced French and Cecil Bell define organization development OD at one point as "organization improvement through action research".

Concerned with social change and, more particularly, with effective, permanent social change, Lewin believed that the motivation to change was strongly related to action: If people are active in decisions affecting them, they are more likely to adopt new ways.


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Action research is either research initiated to solve an immediate problem or a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a "community of practice" to improve the way they address issues and solve problems.

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Different models and definitions of action research are explored and an attempt is made to identify the unique features of action research that should make it an attractive mode of research .

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Implementing the Action Research Model Change influences every aspect of life. For organizations, change is the way to remain competitive and to grow. action research model 1. The Power point presentationon:Action Research model 2. Action Research ModelThe action research model focuses onplanned change as a cyclical process inwhich initial research about the organizationprovides information to guide subsequentaction.

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Action Research Defined Action Research Model is a method to facilitate change by helping involve the client system in a diagnostic, active-learning, problem-finding, and problem-solving. A succinct definition of action research appears in the workshop materials we use at the Institute for the Study of Inquiry in Education. That definition states that action research is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action. The primary reason for engaging in.