Thursday, 19 March 2015

A remix of Chapter 17: Action Research (Creswell)

         I decided to summarize Chapter 17, “Action Research”, in John W. Creswell’s book, Educational Research, because I knew it would help me to get a firmer grasp on the content as well as act as a quick reference for me down the road, should I need it. 
Action Research can be defined as a systematic method for collecting data in an educational environment, that is either quantitative, qualitative, or both. This research method's outcome provides information and enables improvements in learning, teaching, and/or the learning environment.
          Action research is used when there is an identified concern or targeted issue that needs to be improved, resolved or changed. Action research encourages educators to act on a problem by providing an opportunity to actively learn more about the issue and work towards a resolution of change or improvement.

3 stages of development of action research

  •        identification of a process
  •        involve participants
  •        the group assumes responsibility for making change for resolving an issue

       This chapter explains that, historically, group discussions were identified as a possible way to improve social conditions by social psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1930's & 40's.  There were four steps in the group process:  planning, acting, observing, and reflecting.  Action research as a process slowed in the 1950's, but re-emerged in the 1970's and is now recognized as a significant factor in educational reform, professional development, and shifting practice.


·              Critics of Action Research cite its informal approach as a negative and criticizes the fact that it is conducted by people who are not academic researchers using a less-than scientific approach. Another criticism lies in the fact that results are not typically shared with scholarly journals in education,  but instead shared informally on online journals, web sites, or within a specific local group (district, community, or school-based).


There are two distinct types of Action Research: practical and participatory.

·                Practical Action Research is the one I immediately think of when I visualize what Action Research is. It focuses on the practices within a localized area (school or classroom), targets shifts in practice for teachers and learning for students, and uses a collaborative inquiry approach.  The purpose is to establish a plan of action and implement it and sees the teacher move into a role of teacher-researcher. The challenge is finding time for teachers to engage in practical action research; as teachers, our days are full and there is little time available for meaningful collaborative planning and reflection. Funding and administrative support are integral to successful Practical Action Research. 
·                Participatory Action Research is focused on social and/or community issues outside of education and has social change as its goal.  PAR is usually used in the context of improving an organization, municipality or community, a neighborhood or the lives of families.  PAR can be applied to individuals/groups within the field of education, but its purpose would be to empower the individuals within the system or organization as related to education.
Principles of Action Research

Participatory Action Research or PAR
Teachers-as-researchers have autonomy

A social process that focuses on the relationship between an individual and other individuals
Teachers-as-researchers are committed to Professional Development
The inquiry is based in participation, meaning I would participate in the study and be one of the researchers.
Teachers-as-researchers are reflective both individually and as part of a team
PAR is practical and collaborative in its approach
Reflective practice is based in a systematic approach
PAR is emancipatory: it helps remove limitations within an organization/group that impede personal growth & self-determination
Teachers-as-researchers choose a problem, determine a method of data collection, participate in data analysis & interpretation, and build/implement an action plan.
A goal of PAR is to empower people to remove constraints that result from public perception derived from social media
PAR is characterized by a reflexive practice that works towards bringing about a change in practice

Potential ethical issues
         Being so close to the participants in an action research study can lead to potential ethical challenges where people may feel obligated to participate or results might be skewed due to personal biases. Some participants may be led to believe the study is more significant in terms of importance than it actually is, simply based on the consent form, for example or they may feel they aren't able to opt out midway through a study because of personal relationships.  It’s crucial to keep the research process as transparent as possible to help avoid conflicts of interest and the influence of a subjective voice. The chapter recommends, “continually (renegotiating) the purpose of the study, to consider how the results will be used, and to involve participants in as many phases of the process of research as possible” (p. 588)


The steps of action research:

  •      Determine of action research is the best fit for gaining insight to and resolving a given problem
  •      Identify a problem to study
  •      Locate resources to help address the problem
  •      Identify information you will need
  •      Implement the data collection
  •      Analyze the data
  •      Develop a plan for action
  •      Implement the plan and reflect

Criteria for evaluating an action research report

Does the research process:
  •       Focus on an issue in practice or an issue in the local community?      
  •     Select multiple sources of data?
  •        Allow for collaboration with others?
  •        Show respect for all collaborators, making them equal partners in the research process?
  •        Result in a plan of action for trying to resolve the problem?
  •        See the practitioner reflect on his or her own development and learning?
  •        Improve the learning environment, conditions, or experience for learners or participants?
  •       Develop a plan with recommendations changes in practice?
  •       Share research results out in a way that is user friendly and easily understood?

My thoughts on Action Research as presented in Chapter 17…

         I found the chapter to be very clear and feel that I have a pretty good understanding on the process of Action Research.  I can see that there is potential for the waters to get muddied by personal relationships in a Participatory Action Research study and it would be extremely important to be clear, concise and open throughout the process. By regularly revisiting the purpose and process, providing regular opportunities for communication and collaboration, and maintaining transparency one could avoid difficult situations and ethical complications. 

         I was able to draw connections between the Collaborative Inquiry approach and aspects of Action Research and I am intrigued about the possibility of Action Research as school based professional development. While I am excited about some of the possibilities and ways Action Research could be incorporated into addressing inquiry problems and supporting educational reform and shifts in teacher practice, I'm not leaning towards using it as the basis of my final project.  It’s percolating in the back of my mind for sure, however, and I’m wondering what it could look like in other contexts. 


 Creswell, John W. "Action Research." Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research. Boston: Pearson, 2012. 576-95. Print.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Tanya for your remix. It really summarizes the chapter well, and is super easy to read and follow. Like you, I think we are veering away from it, but could see how we could go down that route as well!!!