An Introduction to Action Research
Jeanne H. Purcell, Ph.D.
- Review Related Literature
- Examine the Impact of an Experimental Treatment
- Monitor Change
- Identify Present Practices
- Describe Beliefs and Attitudes
Action Research Is…
- Action research is a three-step spiral process of (1) planning which involves fact-finding, (2) taking action, and (3) fact-finding about the results of the action. (Lewin, 1947)
- Action research is a process by which practitioners attempt to study their problems scientifically in order to guide, correct, and evaluate their decisions and action. (Corey, 1953).
- Action research in education is study conducted by colleagues in a school setting of the results of their activities to improve instruction. (Glickman, 1990)
- 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. (Calhoun,1994)
Conditions That Support Action Research
- A faculty where a majority of teachers wish to improve some aspect (s) of education in their school.
- Common agreement about how collective decisions will be made and implemented.
- A team that is willing to lead the initiative.
- Study groups that meet regularly.
- A basic knowledge of the action research cycle and the rationale for its use.
- Someone to provide technical assistance and/or support.
The Action Research Cycle
- Identify an area of interest/problem.
- Identify data to be collected, the format for the results, and a timeline.
- Collect and organize the data.
- Analyze and interpret the data.
- Decide upon the action to be taken.
- Evaluate the success of the action.
Collecting Data: Sources
- Attendance at PTO meetings
- + and – parent communications
- Office referrals
- Special program enrollment
- Standardized scores
- Interviews with parents
- Library use, by grade, class
- Minutes of meetings
- Nature and amount of in-school assistance related to the innovation
- Number of books read
- Observation journals
- Record of peer observations
- Student journals
- Teacher journals
- Videotapes of students: whole class instruction
- Videotapes of students: Differentiated instruction
- Writing samples
Collecting Data: From Whom?
- From everyone when we are concerned about each student’s performance.
- From a sample when we need to increase our understanding while limiting our expenditure of time and energy; more in-depth interviews or observations may follow.
Collecting Data: How Often?
- At regular intervals
- At critical points
Collecting Data: Guidelines
- Use both existing and inventive data sources.
- Use multiple data sources.
- Collect data regularly.
- Seek help, if necessary.
- Keep it simple.
- Disaggregate numbers from interviews and other qualitative types of data.
- Plan plenty of time to look over and organize the data.
- Seek technical assistance if needed.
- What important points do they data reveal?
- What patterns/trends do you note? What might be some possible explanations?
- Do the data vary by sources? Why might the variations exist?
- Are there any results that are different from what you expected? What might be some hypotheses to explain the difference (s)?
- What actions appear to be indicated?
- Do the data warrant action?
- What might se some short-term actions?
- What might be some long-term actions?
- How will we know if our actions have been effective?
- What benchmarks might we expect to see along the way to effectiveness ?
- Target date
- Evidence of Effectiveness
Brubacher, J. W., Case, C. W., & Reagan, T. G. (1994). Becoming a reflective educator. Thousand Oaks: CA: Corwin Press.
Burnaford, G., Fischer, J., & Hobson, D. (1996). Teachers doing research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Calhoun, Emily (1994). How to use action research in the self-renewing school. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Corey, S. M. (1953). Action research to improve school practices. New York: Teachers College Press.
Glickman, C. D. (1990). Supervision of instruction: A developmental approach. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Hubbard, R. S. & Power, B. M. (1993). The art of classroom inquiry. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman.
Lewin, K. (1947). Group decisions and social change. In Readings in social psychology. (Eds. T M. Newcomb and E. L. Hartley). New York: Henry Holt.