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Teacher Action Research Workshop 1: An Overview. EARCOS Teachers’ Conference 28 -31 March 2012 Donna Kalmbach Phillips, Ph.D. Pacific University, OR USA.

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teacher action research workshop 1 an overview

Teacher Action ResearchWorkshop 1:An Overview

EARCOS Teachers’ Conference

28 -31 March 2012

Donna Kalmbach Phillips, Ph.D.

Pacific University, OR USA


This interactive workshop is designed to answer the question,What is teacher action research?Attendees will define action research, understand the usefulness of action research to classroom teachers and gain a broad perspective of how action research is implemented.

exemplar of a collaborative teacher action research study
Exemplar of a Collaborative Teacher Action Research Study

Reading Engagement, Achievement, and Moral Development in Adolescence

Gay Ivey & Peter Johnston (2010)

  • Small mid-Atlantic city, USA
  • 45% of students on free/reduced price lunch
  • All Grade 8 Language Arts Teachers
paradigms beliefs theory research experience
Paradigms (beliefs), Theory, Research, Experience


Reading Engagement


Reading as Relational

How does full engagement in books that bear relevance to young adults’ lives have consequential implications beyond reading words faster & increased comprehension?

Teaching Experience:

Young adults read “edgy”


Social Imagination

research methods
Research Methods

“Formative Experiment” (Reinking & Bradley, 2008):

“This is an approach that is focused on changing and improving pedagogical practices in order to reach specified pedagogical goals or outcomes, and is thus helpful for researchers who are committed to improving educational outcomes for children as opposed to simply engaging in ‘pure’ or ‘basic’ research.”

Design: Increase engaged reading & social imagination

Intervention: Self-selected reading, “edgy texts”

Instructional Intervention: build engagement; reduce whole-class teaching; daily read-alouds of student preferred texts (strategy conversations)

data collected
Data Collected
  • Student interviews
  • Classroom observations (including audio/transcripts or diction of student conversations)
  • Reading logs
  • Student writing
  • State test scores
  • Ongoing analysis to determine the “effectiveness of the intervention and to identify ways to modify instruction towards meeting the pedagogical goal of increase engaged reading.”


(Reading Logs & Writing)



  • Increased reading volume
  • Increased student conversations about books
  • Increased test scores
  • Transformative Consequences:
  • Social Imagination
  • Moral Agency
  • Personal Maturity




Teaching Experience



Test scores


what is teacher action research1
What is Teacher Action Research?
  • With a neighbor:
  • How does this illustration add to your definition of Teacher Action Research?
  • What makes this exemplar of Teacher Action Research seem reliable or not reliable to you?

Perspectives and Methodologies of

Teacher Action Research


Basic Background Knowledge:

How Paradigm (Epistemology) Matters

  • There are key questions that frame every researcher’s approach to a research project:
  • What do you believe about the nature of knowledge?
  • What do you believe about the nature of “reality”?
  • What beliefs and values do you hold about teaching and learning and schools?
  • What is the purpose of the educational research?
  • What is to be accomplished and for whom is the research being done?

What Paradigm Determines

  • Influenced by paradigm or epistemology, a researcher chooses a methodology and approach to conducting the research.
  • Paradigm and methodology then drive the choice of methods used to gather data.
  • This, in turn, determines how the results are found to be “true” or “valid” or “trustworthy.”
  • Educational research values multiple viewpoints as evidenced in multiple methodologies.

Total “Modern” statements (2,4,5,8,9,11,14,16,18) you agree with:

  • Total “Postmodern” statements (1,3,6,7,10,12,13,15,17,19) you agree with:
  • What your scores could mean:
  • If your totals are different by more than three, it means you have a propensity for one paradigm over the other;
  • If you totals on both are less than four, you may be somewhat noncommittal. You may find that your views swing one way or the other depending upon situations;
  • If you scored more than seven in either modernism or postmodernism, you appear to have a very strong propensity for that paradigm.
  • If you scored more than six in both paradigms, you may be confused or well-balanced (depending upon your paradigm!)
basic background knowledge quantitative research
Basic Background Knowledge: Quantitative Research
  • Uses numerical data collection techniques, primarily through statistical analysis to prove or disprove a hypothesis.
  • School settings: Researchers who generally use quantitative methods begin with the idea that certain pedagogies can be proven useful in teaching and learning to all students or a particular group of students
quantitative research
Quantitative Research

Validity and reliability in quantitative research are generally established by:

  • The presence of a statistically significant sample population;
  • The appropriate application of statistical analysis;
  • The identification of all critical and influencing variables;
  • The objectivity of the researcher.
quantitative research1
Quantitative Research

The “objectivity” of a researcher is highly contested:

  • How “objective” can a researcher be?
  • Can a human researcher ever have a “god’s eye view” that escapes beliefs and values?
  • (Remember the lesson from physics)

The very act of choosing a research methodology is an act of subjectivity; “reason” is suspect.

quantitative research2
Quantitative Research
  • What is useful about each of these designs?
  • What is dangerous about each of these designs?
  • What might make quantitative research difficult, if not impossible, for a teacher researcher?

These are limited and very brief representations of quantitative research. Do you want to know more? See any of these authors:

Coladarci, Cobb, Minium, & Clarke, (2004); Gall, Borg, & Gall (2003);

Goarard, (2001)

qualitative research
Qualitative Research

Qualitative research embodies multiple methodologies – narrative, participatory, historical, feminists (to name only a few) and therefore defies easy definition.

  • Qualitative research generally assumes the nature of knowledge as fluid and subjective (as opposed to fixed and objective).
  • Reality is not only known quantitatively but also constructed by culture, history, and specific contextual settings.

(See Whitt, 1991 for more on this)

qualitative research1
Qualitative Research

“Trustworthiness” (the generally used term to describe the equivalent of “validity” and “reliability” in quantitative research) is usually established through:

Multiple viewpoints as presented in data sets from multiple sources (triangulation)

“Thick description” or research narrative rich with contextual and situational details based upon well-documented raw data

Deliberate and systematic data collection and interpretation

Clear connection to literature (research & theory)

Transparency of researcher’s beliefs, biases & positions

Practicing critical reflexivity

qualitative research2
Qualitative Research
  • What is useful about each of these designs?
  • What is dangerous about each of these designs?
  • What makes qualitative research more useable by Teacher Action Researchers?
  • Interested in reading more about qualitative research?
  • Check out these authors:
  • Denzin & Lincoln, 2003; Johnson, 1997; Lincoln & Guba, 2003; Whitt, 1991)
mixed methodologies

Quantitative and Qualitative

are not always isolated.

Mixed methodologies combine quantitative and qualitative methods.


Martha, a school district math curriculum specialist, became concerned about the ways in which the district math curriculum was being implemented by the over 250 individual elementary math teachers in her district. She heard rumors and reports that teachers varied greatly in their implementation of the curriculum, and wished to gather information and be equipped to make recommendations to the superintendent. She began by developing and administering a quantitative survey in which teachers were asked to self-report, anonymously, their opinions and usage of the district math curriculum. Results from the survey were tabulated and statistics generated, showing means, trends, and correlations between the survey items. Then, focus groups were held and recorded in which teachers discussed the district math curriculum, including their opinions about what they would change, what they like and dislike, and what they would need in order to be better prepared to fully use the curriculum. These conversations were transcribed to help Martha better read and understand the content, and a software application was used to highlight words and phrases of interest. Finally, Martha used both the quantitative survey results and qualitative analysis of the discussion data to draw conclusions about the math curriculum and make her report.


What was useful about the survey Martha gave? How are the survey data limited?

  • What was useful about the focus group sessions Martha used? How are focus group data limited?
  • How was Martha’s work enhanced by her mixed-methods approach?
  • How could a Teacher Action Researcher use mixed methods?
some standards of all research
Some Standards of All Research
  • Research must be grounded in literature (research & theory);
  • Because our understandings are limited, multiple perspectives and methodologies builds a more trustworthy knowledge base;
  • Humans are limited in their ability to be “objective”’
  • Vigorous debate of “results” is critical;
  • Limitations should be identified;
  • Any possible conflicts of interests should be acknowledged (e.g. who funds the research, who profits from the research, motives for doing the research).
teacher action research
Teacher Action Research
  • Action research improves one’s own teaching practice, increases the quality of education for students, and, more holistically, makes life in schools better.
  • Teacher-researchers view teaching and learning as a dynamic process that can be informed, modified, and altered through intentional planning, data collection, analysis, and self-reflection.
teacher action research1
Teacher Action Research
  • School communities are recognized by teacher-researchers as being complex; they acknowledge that multiple ways of analyzing issues, situations, and questions require more than simple analysis of either quantitative or qualitative data.
  • The process of action research is the process of co-creating meaning with others.
How do these snapshots grow your definition of teacher action research?What are the unique characteristics of teacher action research?

“Action research is a form of teaching; a form of reflective practice and professional learning founded on an ethical commitment to improving practice and realizing educational values. AR involves individual and groups identifying areas for improvement, generating ideas, and testing these ideas in practice.”Arhar, Holly & Kasten, 2001


“Action Research…is about taking everyday things in the life of education and unpacking them for their historical and ideological baggage…It highlights process with content, rather than content alone. It allows for a focus on teaching, in addition to student outcomes, and on the interplay between the two.” Noffke, 1995

common themes of teacher action research
Common Themes of Teacher Action Research

Action research

  • involves a systematic or organized approach to problem-solving
  • requires active engagement and interaction between groups of people
  • insists upon reflection, critical analysis, and revolving assessment
  • analyzes systems & structures of power
common themes of teacher action research1
Common Themes of Teacher Action Research
  • deconstructs taken-for-granted assumptions
  • results in action as a practical outcome
  • results in transformation, in a rediscovered or new sense of self and other, in empowered teaching and learning
common themes of teacher action research2
Common Themes of Teacher Action Research

8) relies upon democratic and ethical principles that value and respect all participants

9) focuses on a single place of inquiry (context matters)

10)features the teacher-researcher as participant…and is, therefore, most likely a combination of self-study, ethnography, and integrated action.


AR Data Analysis



AR Design


the Story

AR Data Interpretation

Collect Data Set



Key Points






Becoming a




What I will

do in my AR


Interpretation Scaffold




Revisit, review:

reread ongoing data

analysis & memos

What data

will I collect?

Researcher’s Journal

Create mind maps,

charts, and/or timelines;

generate categories

On-Going Analysis

Organize and read

the data

Think about the data

Chart, free write,cluster

process the data in the

researcher’s journal

Use AR question as


Discover an

area of focus

How will I

collect the data?

Going Public

Web page





Newspaper &


Expand your interpretation



How will I


the data?

Apply layers of


Write AR memo

Draft synthesis statements





AR Plan




Return to the questions

Draft synthesis


Critical Questions

thinking teacher action research
Thinking Teacher Action Research
  • What is your definition of teacher action research now?
  • Do you think you would want to engage in teacher action research? Why or why not?
  • Which approaches and methodologies align best with your beliefs and context for doing research? Please explain.
  • What do you still need to know?

We research our own issues, meaningful in our current life and practice. We pursue critical questions that resonate with our professional community and have the potential to improve teaching, learning and life.


Teacher Action Research: Process Workshops

Trustworthy Action Research Design

Framing the Study

Data Analysis, Interpretation

Discover an Area of


Criteria for Trustworthiness

Data Analysis


Develop a critical Question

Research Design

Ongoing Analysis:

Cycle & Strategies

Research Design


Final Data Interpretation

Literature Review

Researcher Dispositions

Going Public

………………………………………………………Critical Questions……………………………………………………………

resources used in preparing this powerpoint
Resources used in preparing this PowerPoint

Charts from Slides 20-11; 26-28; 33-39; 42-46:

Phillips, D. K. & Carr, K. (2010). Becoming a teacher through action research: Process, context, and self-study. NY: Roultedge. (and just to make sure there is no conflict here, yes, the Phillips, is me.)

Quantitative Research References:

Coladarci, T., Cobb, C.D., Minium, E. W. & Clarke, R.C (2004) Fundamentals of statistical reasoning in education. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Gall, M.E. Borg, W.R., & Gall, J.P. (2003). Educational research: An introduction (7th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Goarard, S. (2001). Quantitative methods in educational research: The role of numbers made easy. London: Continuum.

Qualitative Research References:

Denzin, N.K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2003). The landscape of qualitative research: Theories and issues (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Johnson, R.B. (1997). Examining the validity structure of qualitative research. Education, 118(2). 282-291

Lincoln Y.S., & Guba, E.G. (1985) Naturalistic inquiry. CA: Sage.

Whitt, E.J. (1991). Artful science: A primer on qualitative research methods. Journal of College Student Development, 32, 406-415.