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The Purpose of Action Research. Contributes to the theory & knowledge base to enhance practice Supports the professional development of practitioners Builds a collegial networking system Helps practitioners identify problems & seek solutions systematically

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The Purpose of Action Research

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the purpose of action research
The Purpose of Action Research
  • Contributes to the theory & knowledge base to enhance practice
  • Supports the professional development of practitioners
  • Builds a collegial networking system
  • Helps practitioners identify problems & seek solutions systematically
  • Can be used at all levels & in all areas of education
formal research vs action research
Skills needed


How the research problem is identified

Literature review

Selection of participants

Research design

Data collection

Data analysis

Application of results

Formal Research vs. Action Research
skills needed
Skills Needed

General research skills:

  • Ability to design research
  • Ability to develop instruments
  • Ability to select subjects (if necessary)
  • Ability to collect data
  • Ability to analyze data


  • Overall goal should be to solve a problem
  • Include collaboration
  • Professional development
  • Enhance professional practice
identifying the problem
Identifying the Problem

First, select a general idea or area of focus:

  • should involve teaching and learning
  • should be within your locus of control
  • should be something you feel passionate about
  • should be something you would like to change or improve
identifying the problem6
Identifying the Problem

Second, do Reconnaissance:

  • Explore your understanding of theories, your educational values, how your work fits into the larger context of schooling, the historical context of your school, the history of the development of your ideas about teaching and learning
  • Describe the Who, What, When & Where of the situation you want to change
  • Explain the Why of the situation
proactive action research
A new practice is tried to bring improved outcomes

Hopes & concerns are incorporated

Data are collected regularly to track changes

Reflection on alternatives takes place

Another practice is tried

Process begins again

Proactive Action Research
responsive action research
Data collected to diagnose situation

Data analyzed for themes & ideas

Data distributed & changes to be tried announced

New practice tried

Reactions checked

Data collected to diagnose

Process begins again

Responsive Action Research
the process of action research
The Process of Action Research
  • Identify the problem; select an area of focus.
  • Review the related research literature.
  • Collect the data.
  • Organize, analyze & interpret the data.
  • Take the action (apply the findings).

Identify the

problem or area

Review related

research literature

Collect data

Organize, analyze

& interpret

Take action;

apply findings

identify the problem select the area of focus
Identify the ProblemSelect the Area of Focus
  • Determine & describe the current situation
  • Discuss
  • Negotiate
  • Explore opportunities
  • Assess possibilities
  • Examine constraints
review the related literature
Review the Related Literature
  • Become familiar with other research done on the area of focus
  • Utilize the findings of others to help develop the plan
  • Apply research findings through the lens of others’ experience
collect the data
Collect the Data
  • Using a variety of data collection strategies, gather information that will contribute to the findings
  • Triangulate
  • Data should be analyzed as it is collected
organize analyze interpret the data
Organize, Analyze & Interpret the Data
  • As the data is collected, it is also continually organized & analyzed
  • As new perspectives are gained on the original area of focus, the problem statement may change
  • Interpretation is based on ongoing analysis & continually reviewing the area of focus
take action apply findings
Take Action; Apply Findings
  • Draw conclusions from the data analyzed
  • Translate conclusions into actions or behaviors
  • Plan how to implement the actions or behaviors
  • Do it!
planning action research
Write an area-of-focus statement.

Define the variables.

Develop research questions.

Describe the intervention or innovation.

Describe the action research group.

Describe the negotiations that need to happen.

Develop a timeline.

Develop a statement of resources.

Develop data collection ideas.

Put action plan into action.

Planning Action Research
area of focus statement
Area-of-Focus Statement
  • Identifies the purpose of the study
  • Identifies the anticipated outcome
  • Identifies the problem to be addressed
  • Completes the statement: “The purpose of this study is…”
define the variables
Define the Variables
  • Write definitions of exactly what you will address.
  • Definitions should accurately represent what factors, contexts & variables mean to you.
  • Be clear about what is being studied, so that you know it when you see it!
the research questions
The Research Questions
  • Develop questions that “breathe life” into the area-of-focus statement.
  • Research questions should be open-ended!
  • Research questions help give a focus to the plan.
  • They also help validate that you have a workable plan.
intervention or innovation
Intervention or Innovation
  • Describe your proposed solution to the initial problem.
  • This is just a statement about what you will do to address the teaching and learning issue you have identified.
  • In “formal research” this would be the experimental treatment.
the action research group
The Action Research Group
  • Who will you be working with?
  • Why is each member important to the study?
  • What will be the roles & responsibilities of each member?
  • What permissions will you need to secure?
  • Who will be in control of the focus of your study (hopefully, you!)?
  • Who needs to be notified of what?
  • Whose cooperation do you need & how will you get it?
develop a timeline
Develop a Timeline
  • This is the essence of planning!
  • Anticipate where & how your study will take place.
  • Anticipate how long each step will take.
  • Apply predicted time frames to a calendar.
statement of resources
Statement of Resources
  • What will you need to carry out your study?
  • Resources include time, money, and materials.
  • Make a list before you get started!
data collection ideas
Data Collection Ideas
  • First, decide what kinds of data you will need.
  • Then, determine what kind of access you have to the data.
  • Then, decide how you will gather it.
  • Brainstorm what data naturally occurs in the environment you are studying.
put the action plan into action
Put the Action Plan into Action
  • From your analysis of the data you collected, you should have elements and ideas you can apply to a plan.
  • Formulate the plans in collaboration with the Action Research Group.
  • Go for it!
validity of action research
Validity of Action Research
  • Validity: the degree to which scientific observations actually measure or record what they purport to measure (Pelto & Pelto, 1978, p. 33)
  • Assessing trustworthiness
  • Assessing understanding
criteria for assessing validity
Criteria for Assessing Validity

Anderson, Herr & Nihlen:

  • Democratic validity – require accurate representa-tion of multiple perspectives of all subjects
  • Outcome validity – requires that action emerging from a study lead to successful resolution of problem being studied
  • Process validity – requires that study be conduc-ted in dependable & competent way
  • Catalytic validity – requires that subjects are moved to take action
  • Dialogic validity – requires application of a peer review process
so ask yourself
So, ask yourself…

Democratic validity:

Have the perspectives of all of the individuals in the study been accurately represented?

Outcome validity:

Did the action emerging from the study lead to the successful resolution of the problem?

so ask yourself30
So, ask yourself…

Process validity:

Was the study conducted in a dependable & competent manner?

Catalytic validity:

Were the results of the study a catalyst for action?

Dialogic validity:

Was the study reviewed by peers?

strategies for meeting the criteria
Strategies for Meeting the Criteria
  • Talk Little, Listen a lot!
  • Begin Writing Early!
  • Let Readers “See” for Themselves
  • Report Fully
  • Be Candid
  • Seek Feedback
  • Write Accurately

(Wolcott, 1994)