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Action Research Presentation. Margaret Farren Bernie Tobin Dublin City University November 2005. Purpose of presentation. Action research approach is presented as a rigorous and valid form of research. Research.

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action research presentation

Action Research Presentation

Margaret Farren

Bernie Tobin

Dublin City University

November 2005

purpose of presentation
Purpose of presentation

Action research approach is presented as a rigorous and valid form of research.


Research is systematic, criticaland self-critical enquiry which aims to contribute to the advancement of knowledge. (Bassey, 1995)

choice of research
Choice of research

The choice of research practice depends on the questions that are asked and the questions asked depend on their context.

(Denzin and Lincoln, 1998)

forms of research
Forms of Research

Search for generalisations requires the investigation of large populations, usually studied by appropriate sampling, and by intention leads to statements which can be used to predict what will occur in other situations.

Study of Singularity can be investigation of something quite small. It cannot be used to predict probabilities, but it can be related to other situations, it may be valuable.

(Bassey, 1995).

research on education or research in education
Research on Education or Research in Education

Research in educational settings is only educational research if it is concerned with attempts to improve educational judgement and decisions. Research in educational settings which aims to develop sociological theory, psychological theory, philosophical constructs or historical ideas is not educational research, but sociological, psychological, philosophical or historical research in educational settings.

(Bassey. M., 1995)

new scholarship requires new epistemology epistemology of practice
New scholarship requires new epistemology Epistemology of practice

We should think about practice as a setting not only for the application of knowledge but for its generation. We should ask not only how practitioners can better apply the results of academic research, but what kinds of knowing are already embedded in competent practice.

Schon, D. (1995)

other ways of knowing
Other Ways of Knowing

Sparkes (2002) discusses how attempts to impose inappropriate criteria on work that is different from one’s own…builds in failure from the start so that the legitimacy of other research forms is systematically denied. The research community is in a “no win” situation in which researchers offer blind allegiance to their own particular paradigmatic positions and refuse to acknowledge the contribution that other ways of knowing can make to our understanding.

theorising from the standpoint of action
Theorising from the standpoint of action

The need to challenge the assumptions that the term ‘theory’ exclusively refers to generalisable representations of events, which can only be produced under conditions that are dissociated from the intentions of agents to effect change in practical situations.

Elliott, J. (2004)

action research as an epistemology of practice
Action research is a form of research in which practitioners reflect systematically on their practice, implementing informed action to bring about improvement in practice and add to a body of knowledge.

Action (that is, change)

Research (that is, understanding)

Bob Dick (1999)

Action research as an epistemology of practice
m sc education and training management
M.Sc. Education and Training Management
  • Context: Primary school.
  • Role: Coordinator of curriculum in junior infants -2nd class.
  • Action research design - Elliot model/Whitehead.
  • Values: the enquiry is guided by the values inherent in the context of the research question.
  • Whitehead (1998) defines values as ‘those qualities which give meaning and purpose to our personal and professional lives’
action research cycle one
Action Research cycle one

Cycle 1

Identify initial idea:

  • Implementation of new curriculum.
  • Curriculum Audit.


  • Current practice in terms of writing.
  • Group’s perceived needs.
  • Visit to St. Patrick’s College.

General plan

Action steps:

  • Action step 1: On-site training.
  • Action step 2: Initial activities.
  • Action step 3: Children’s perceptions of writing.
action research
Action Research

Cycle 1 (continued)

Monitor implementation and effects

  • Supportive-work-in-progress discussions.
    • Children’s perception of writing.
    • Understand the writing process.
    • Implementation in the classroom.


    • Moved our understanding of the writing process.
    • Role of modelling.
    • Classroom practicalities.
    • Teachers’ concerns.
    • Personal side to change.

Cycle two…….

research method way of gathering evidence
Research method – way of gathering evidence
  • Keeping a Research Diary.
  • Group Interviews.
  • Audio tapes.
  • Video tapes.
  • Portfolios of pupils’ work.
legitimation of action research within academy
Legitimation of action research within Academy

Are the descriptions and explanations of teacher-researcher’s educational development presented within a form and content that can be publicly tested for validity?

the meaning of validity
The meaning of validity?

Does the research do the things it claims to do, and can the reader believe the results?

  • Habermas social validation.
  • Winter’s six criteria of rigour.
  • Living educational standards of judgement developed by teacher in the course of the educational enquiry.
habermas social validation
Habermas social validation

Habermas (1976) states that the criteria required to judge the legitimacy of knowledge claims are that:

  • what is being said is meaningful;
  • that the prepositional content of what is being said is true;
  • that the speaker is justified in saying what he or she is saying;
  • that the speaker is speaking sincerely.
validation meeting
Validation meeting
  • Are the descriptions and explanations of the practitioner-researcher’s learning comprehensible?
  • Is there sufficient evidence to justify the claims being made?
  • Are the values that justify the enquiry as educational clearly revealed and justified?
  • Is there evidence of the practitioner-researcher’s influence in the learning of others?
purpose of validation meetings
Purpose of Validation meetings
  • To test the knowledge claims within a validation group meeting. These claims are challenged in order to strengthen claims.
  • To check out the data and the way it is analysed and presented.
  • To enhance claims to knowledge and make sure that evidence is presented that supports the claims. .
  • To contribute to an epistemology of practice (knowledge base).
what is rigour
What is rigour

the methodology which best allows the researcher to conduct systematic inquiry in order to present a warranted assertion – that is the methodology is fit for a given function.

Swepson (2000)

how to ensure rigour in action research
How to ensure rigour in action research
  • Selection and use of multiple research methods.
  • Cyclical nature of action research.
  • Focus on participation.
winter s six criteria of rigour
Winter’s Six Criteria of rigour
  • Reflexive critique;
  • Dialectical critique;
  • Collaborative Resource;
  • Risk;
  • Plural Structure;
  • Theory, Practice, Transformation.

(Winter, R., 1989)

winter s criteria of rigour
Winter’s criteria of rigour

Dialectical critique/Risk Disturbance:

  • Educational values not lived out in practice.
  • Children’s perceptions – concern with orthodoxy.
  • Living contradictions.

Collaborative Resource/Plural structure:

  • Collaboration was central to research process.
  • Participants viewpoints were considered.
  • Questioning of statements and actions allowed us to gain insights into practice.
addressing winter s criteria
Addressing Winter’s criteria

Theory, Practice, Transformation:

  • Engaged with theories in literature.
  • Own learning emerged through enquiry.
  • Created own theory through practice.

Reflexive critique

  • Action research as situational
  • Specific context.
  • Insights on modest claims.
  • Validation through collaboration with peers.
  • Others taking their own context into account, may be able to use the findings and recommendations.
action research models processes
Action Research Models/Processes

East Anglia School of Action Research: John Elliot

The 'Deakin' School of Action Research:Wilfred Carr and Stephen Kemmis:

Community Action Research – Australia: Ernie Stringer

Higher Education: Zubber-Skerrit

University of Bath School of Action Research: Jack Whitehead

stringer community action research
Look - building a picture and gathering information.

When evaluating we define and describe the problem to be investigated and the context in which it is set. Wealso describe what all the participants (educators,group members, managers etc.) have been doing.

Think - interpreting and explaining.

When evaluating we analyse and interpret the situation.

We reflect onwhat participants have been doing.

We look at areas ofsuccess and any deficiencies, issues or problems.

Act - resolving issues and problems. In evaluation wejudge the worth, effectiveness, appropriateness, andoutcomes of those activities. We act to formulate solutions to any problems.

Stringer: Community Action Research
ortrun zubber skerrit higher education
Ortrun Zubber-Skerrit: Higher Education
  • Web site:
  • Action Research in higher education
living educational theory whitehead
‘Living Educational Theory’ (Whitehead)
  • What am I concerned about/what do I want to improve;
  • What am I going to do about it;
  • What data will I need to collect to enable me to make a judgement on my effectiveness;
  • Act and gather data; Evaluation of effectiveness;
  • Modification of concerns, ideas and actions in the light of evaluations;
  • Submission of descriptions and explanation of my learning in the educational enquiry, ‘How do I improve my practice?’ to a

validation group. (Whitehead, J.1989)

living educational theory
Living Educational Theory
  • That one should include ‘I’ as a living contradiction in educational enquiries of the kind, ‘How do I improve my practice?’
  • That one should seek to create and test living educational theories as explanations for learning in educational enquiries of the kind, ‘How do I improve my practice?’
  • That one should devise a process for clarifying the meanings of embodied values in the course of their emergence in practice and for transforming embodied values into living and communicable standards of educational judgement.
epistemological and ontological
Epistemological and Ontological….

The question….

“How does one conduct action research? is replaced with the question….

“How does one conduct a life that includes the practice of action research?

…….. With this question, epistemological concerns are linked with ontological ones.

…….. Who one is becomes linked with what one knows and does.


An epistemology is a theory of knowledge.

It answers questions about who can be a ‘knower’,

What tests beliefs must pass in order to be legitimated as knowledge.

action research readings
Action research readings

Bassey, M. (1995). Creating Education Through Research: A Global Perspective of Educational Research for the 21st Century. Kirklington Moore Press.

Bassey, M. (1999) Case Study Research in Educational Settings. Open University Press.

Carr,W, Kemmis, S. (1993) Action Research in Education. In: Hammesley, M, Controversies in Classroom Research, Buckingham; Open University Press

Cohen, L., Manion, L., and Morrison, K. (2000) Research Methods in Education. London; Routledge Falmer

Dadds, M. (2001) Doing Practitioner Research Differently. Routledge; London and New York

Elliott, J. (1991) Action Research for Educational Change, London: Open University Press.

Farren, M. (2005) Creating a pedagogy of the unique through a web of betweenness. Education-Line.

action research readings38
Action research readings

Ghaye, A. (1998). Teaching and Learning through Critical Reflective Practice. David Fulton Publishers.

Hamilton, M. L. (Editor): (1998). Reconceptualising Teaching Practice. Falmer Press.

Loughran, J. (1996). Developing Reflective Practice: Learning about Teaching and Learning through Modelling. Falmer Press.

McNiff, J. (2000). Action Research in Ireland. Rougledge.

McNiff, J. (1995) Action Research for Educational Development, London; Hyde


McNiff, J. (1988) Action Research, Principles and Practice, London; Macmillan Education Ltd.

Maykut, P, Morehouse, P. (1994) Beginning Qualitative Research A Philosophical and Practical Guide . London; Falmer

action research readings39
Action research readings

Schön, D. (1995). ‘Knowing-in-action: The New Scholarship requires a New Epistemology, Change, November/December, 1995. pp. 27-34.

Stringer, E. (1999). Action Research, Sage Publications; 2nd edition

Winter. R.(1989). Learning from Experience. RoutledgeFalmer

Whitehead, J, (1989) Creating a Living Educational Theory From Questions of the Kind, How do I Improve my Practice? [online]. Available from: http:/

Whitehead, J. (1998) Educational Action Researchers Creating Their Own Living Educational Theories. A paper for presentation to the Action Research SIG, AERA, San Diego.

Zubber-Skerritt, O. (1998). Developing as researchers (co-edited with Linda Conrad. Brisbane: Griffith Institute for Higher Education

Zubber-Skerritt, O. (1996). New directions in action research. London: Falmer Press.

Zubber-Skerritt, O. (1992). Action Research in Higher Education. London: Kogan Press.

action research web resources
Action Research web resources

Action research resources