How to write Action Research paper

How to writing action research proposal, how to write a literature review for an action research paper research how to make an action research paper
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Dr.CherylStam,New Zealand,Researcher
Published Date:04-07-2017
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Action Research Guide for Alberta Teachers PUBLIC EDUCATION WORKS… for AlbertaIntroduction Action research is a strategy teachers can use to investigate a problem or area of interest specific to their professional context. It provides the structure to engage in a planned, systematic and documented process of professional growth. This resource is intended to help you plan a self-guided action research project. As an educator, you are faced daily with challenges as you work to provide an effective learning environment for all the students in your classroom or school. These challenges surface in your reflections as questions that you attempt to answer to improve your professional practice. What can we do to eliminate bullying in the school? Can high school student achievement be enhanced through the use of portfolios? How can I improve my students’ spelling strategies? Will using a graphing calculator improve junior high students’ understanding of math? 2Action Research as Professional Development Action Research is a process of systematic inquiry into a self-identified teaching or learning problem to better understand its complex dynamics and to develop strategies geared towards the problem’s improvement. (Hamilton 1997, 3) The action research process can result in: professional development Action Research education change can focus on the teaching enhanced personal awareness and learning improved practice and process. new learnings Action research is one form of applied research. Action Research Because action research draws on a range of designs and can be used to methodologies, it can provide teachers with the opportunity to examine solve a problem a practical problem within a classroom or school setting. Action or institute research has the potential to greatly enhance both teacher professional a change. development and school improvement initiatives. The following three forms of action research have been used extensively in Alberta: Action Research 1. Individual: an educator works on a personal inquiry can be used to document teacher 2. Collaborative: a team or group focuses on an issue professional 3. Schoolwide/districtwide: a community of practitioners works to growth. solve a problem or make a change 3Quantitative Research Research design is largely predetermined Emphasis is on measurement of quantifiable Qualitative variables Research Often, reliance is on control variables Research design is somewhat and one manipulated variable Action flexible and adaptable Results are analyzed statistically Research Emphasis is on describing Researchers are frequently observable change external to the context Controlling all variables is difficult Results are interpreted from a variety of perspectives All participants in the research have a voice Action research provides teachers with a systematic process to reflect, consider options, implement and evaluate potential solutions. Action research differs from the day-to-day decision making that teachers do. Consider this example. During our high school staff meeting in June the vice- principal expressed frustration over the number of discipline problems that occur over the noon hour. The staff discussed the issue for 10 minutes and then one staff member made a motion to reduce the length of the lunch hour from 55 minutes to 40 minutes. The rationale given for the motion was that it would reduce the time students had to get into trouble. After some discussion the motion was put to a vote and was carried. The 40-minute lunch break was implemented in September and school was dismissed 10 minutes earlier every day. It now seems that fewer students participate in intramural and school clubs. The Students’ Council had to adapt its activities to the shorter time. No one can really say if there are fewer discipline problems now because we don’t know what the statistics were for last year. 4In this situation the teachers did not have the opportunity to reflect on and examine the issue closely. A solution was implemented that focused on dealing with the “symptom” and as a result there could be a new and more serious problem to deal with. If they had taken the time to design and implement an action research study the teachers in this school would have learned more about the discipline problems, why they were occurring, what the students thought about the issue as well as other aspects of the problem. This might have led to a different, perhaps better, solution. Action research is a valuable form of inquiry for educators because it is... 7 Practical: practical improvements are the focus. Participative: teachers, administrators, teacher assistants, students and parents can all be involved in meaningful ways. Empowering: all participants can contribute to and benefit from the process. Interpretive: meaning is constructed using participants’ multiple realities in the situation. Tentative there are not always right or wrong answers; rather, there are possible solutions based on multiple view points. Critical: participants look critically at specific problems and act as self-critical change agents. (Schmuck 1997, 29) 5Questions of Ethics in Action Research As action researchers, teachers are knowledge generators rather than appliers of knowledge. John Elliot At its core, action research encourages teachers to share their experiences about how they have worked through an educational concern. Anyone who has spent time in schools will immediately recognize the issues that might emerge. The notion that teachers not only apply knowledge but produce knowledge can throw teachers into interesting waters. By its very nature, action research produces data and information that at times challenge us and our colleagues. Consider the predicament of these teachers. It all started when we were reviewing our notes on a technology-integration action research project in our school. After meeting for over six months, it was clear that, no matter what we tried, we could not get approval for any further funding for release time from the school’s PD budget. One day someone from the school’s PD committee picked up a piece of paper from the recycling box in the staff photocopy room. On the back of the paper was a copy of a teacher’s journal entry that was from one of our action research team meetings. In her notes, the teacher had written about her personal frustrations with the lack of PD funding in the school and with the committee’s decision. When the PD representative asked the teacher about the notes her response was quite defensive: “How dare you spy on us. This is our group and you have no business reading our material.” This anecdote raises important questions about action research in schools. First and foremost, teachers are bound by common principles that guide how they relate to each other as professionals. In Alberta, the 6Code of Professional Conduct does much to inform teachers about what constitutes appropriate collaborative relationships and ethical practices. Yet a code of conduct, or indeed any ethical practice, cannot be viewed as a simple formula or a checklist of do’s and don’ts. Schools are complex social environments, and because action research affects the quality of relations with colleagues, it is important that we avoid looking for simple rules of thumb or lists of do’s and don’ts. A more helpful approach is to consider examples of ethical questions that might inform your action research project. These might be questions a critical friend could pose as you move through your project. ➜ How might the intended changes from your project affect others? ➜ Who has an interest in being informed about your project? ➜ Who will own the information generated by the project? ➜ How does the project express an ethic of caring for others? ➜ In whose interest is the change you are proposing being made? ➜ Who will own the success/failure of the project? As with any teaching practice, questions of ethics are central to all aspects of action research in schools. The previous questions can be further informed by four types of ethical practices: 1. Ethics of hope: Action research is motivated by an interest in making schools better places for students. However, improving schooling is much more than making technical changes to the ways that schools deliver curriculum. Action research should be informed by a concern for the broad range of needs of students and the school community. 2. Ethics of caring: It is far too easy to see getting the project done as the central purpose of action research. At all times, the general welfare of both students and teachers must be kept at the fore. 7 + 3. Ethics of openness: Action research can unwittingly create insiders and outsiders in a school. It is important that both the questions and the ways that teacher-researchers work through them are made clear to colleagues and school members. 4. Ethics of responsibility: As professionals, teacher-researchers must be committed to principled action. The welfare of students and the need to maintain collegiality must be kept in mind at all times. These four practices, developed by Carson et al (1989), remind us that ethical issues are often too complex for simple rules or procedures. The best practice is to be mindful of the ambiguities that confront us in the complex life of schools. Teachers must consider The Freedom of Information and the Protection of Freedom of Privacy Act (FOIP) as they develop their action research project plans. Information Most classroom-based action research projects will involve collecting and the personal information about students, including their demographic and Protection of achievement data. Parents must give prior approval for this type of information to be collected and, if necessary, reported or published. The Privacy Act following questions can serve as a guide for writing a letter to seek parental permission in light of FOIP: Why are you collecting the information? \ What information will be collected? \ How will the information be used? \ / Who will be the audience for the information? \ Parents must also give prior permission for teachers to use photographs or video tape students involved in the action research project. Use the previous guiding questions to write a letter of permission and include reassurance that neither the child’s identity nor any personal information will be used in conjunction with the photograph. For more information about FOIP, consult: your school principal, \ the school district FOIP coordinator or \ the Alberta Teachers’ Association website at \ 8Developing a Research Question Where do research questions come from? Simply put, action research questions originate in a teacher’s reflections. Everyday there are situations that cause you to reflect later. You might ask yourself... What How can Why did it What was should I it be happen? different? do next? changed? Strategies you can use to develop a research question Keep a journal for at least one week, preferably two Set aside 10 minutes to write at the end of each day. ✐ c At the end of two weeks, read your journal, looking for ✐ significant ideas and themes. Brainstorm a list of things that you would like to investigate. ✐ Review the list and write a first draft of your question. ✐ Write a paragraph of supporting rationale for your question. ✐ Reflect on your question. ✐ (Patterson et al 1993, 23–25) Sentence Stems Focus on your classroom or role in the school and complete the ? following sentence stems. One thing I would like to change is... 9My practice could be improved by... The students I work with need... I would like to know... I wonder why... The most important thing about teaching is... The best learning environment for students is... I need to learn how to... My students would do better if... ➜ ➜ Affinity charting (for collaborative action research) ➜ ➜ ➜ Brainstorm issues of concern or interests relating to your educational context. Record each item on a separate note. ➜ Group your items using affinity charting. Place the most diverse statements on the table in a row. Place items that have a common theme or focus in each column. ➜ Review and reflect on the placement. Do some items fit better in a different column? ➜ Develop a draft research question that reflects the key issue in each column. ➜ Choose the question that most interests you and is possible to study. 10Points to consider in developing a good question 1 Studying this question will enhance my professional practice. 2 This question will be of value to my classroom, school and/or colleagues. 3 The climate of my classroom and school will be supportive of this question. 4 The question focuses on an important issue. 5 The question can be studied in the time available. ? ? 6 I can access literature or other resources that will provide background information. 7 The data needed to answer this question is accessible. 8 The question is of personal interest to me. Reflect on Your Question... Which of the following words best describes your research question? Trigger Problem Issue Curious Wish What does this word say about your assumptions regarding the question? Limiting Enabling OR Indifferent Committed OR Status Quo Change OR 11 + The Action Research Process The action research process can generally be described as a series of four steps: planning, action, observing and reflecting on the results of the action. Depending on the research question, purpose of the study and number of researchers involved, each of these steps can be expanded. A single teacher researcher studying a classroom issue may work through the steps of the process in a relatively short time. In contrast, a collaborative group of researchers focusing on a school improvement initiative may engage in an in-depth study taking the entire school year to complete. The action research process lends itself to a spiral of cycles, with the researcher reflecting on each stage of the process. When the results of the first action have been studied, the researcher then plans the next series of actions. Each reflective phase yields more information about the issue and increases the researcher’s understanding. Sometimes the information gained leads the researcher to refine the question with a different focus. The most important skill the researcher needs in action research is the ability to engage in reflection. Reflection moves the practitioner from one stage to the next; thus, action is based on reflection. The diagram below illustrates the notion that the action research process is a series of steps or actions, propelled by reflection. TIME 12 ACTIVITY1 \ One of the first tasks in your project should be to develop an outline to guide your activities and describe the various steps in your action research process. The process you design will depend on the nature of your research question and the context of your study. For instance, if your project is to study the impact of two different computer-based math programs, you will not need to spend much time reviewing the research that supported the development of computer-based math programs. You are primarily interested in which program will give the best results in your school. However, if your study is to increase student achievement in mathematics, your research design will need to include an extensive review of different teaching and learning strategies to identify the strategies most likely to have a positive impact in your classroom. Engaging in an extensive literature review and seeking out expert information will help to ensure that the interventions you choose to implement will have a positive impact. n 1996, the Ontario Public School Teachers’ Federation Approach sponsored the Common Curriculum Innovation Fund Project, I which brought together teachers, principals and superintendents from four boards of education. Their action research projects focused on the implementation of the Common Curriculum. These teachers used the following key questions to help guide their action research. 1 ➢ What is the problem? 2 ➢ What are some possible solutions? Solutions may be self designed, learned from colleagues or from reviews of educational literature. 3 ➢ What is the possible solution I want to investigate? 4 ➢ How do I make the solution work? Test the proposed solution and modify it as needed. 5 ➢ How do I record data and reflect on it? Keeping a journal and discussing it with a critical friend are effective methods. 6 ➢ How do I share my experiences with others? This is how the practitioner demonstrates and models his or her 132 \ professional development and contributes to the improvement of educational practice. Holding a meeting, conducting a workshop, or writing a paper are possible ways of fulfilling this responsibility. 7 ➢ What is next? Action research is an open-ended, ongoing, cyclical process. The solution one develops to the initial problem will generate the next problem to be addressed. This is the catalyst to continuous professional improvement. (Halsall and Hosack 1996, 16) r. David Townsend, a professor in the Faculty of Education Approach at the University of Lethbridge, has made extensive use of D an 11-step process with teachers in Alberta. 1 ➢ Define the Focus or Problem • Ask the right questions. • Reflection begins. 2 ➢ Collect Information • Read the literature, consult colleagues, talk to experts. • Reflection continues. 3 ➢ Make Sense of the Information • What is relevant? • What is doable? • What can be modified and adapted to suit the circumstances? 4 ➢ Share the Information • Share your preliminary conclusions with your team. • Be prepared to deal with conflicting information. 5 ➢ Plan Action • Share individual intentions with members of the team. • Build personal commitment and group support. • Develop a plan of action. 6 ➢ Take Action • Start putting your plan into effect. • Begin to think otherwise about what is happening and why. • Reflection in action and on action will make your efforts more purposeful. 143 \ 7 ➢ Collect Information • Let your students see you as a learner. • Gather data to answer your research question and document carefully. • Meet regularly to share your experiences and re-focus as necessary. 8 ➢ Analyze • Use the collective knowledge of your group to make sense of what’s happening and why. • Compare the pre- and post-intervention data. 9 ➢ Assess Your Achievements • Think about evidence-based practice. • Your conclusions are supported by the data collected. 10 ➢ Publish • Commit yourself to making conclusions about the impact of your efforts. • Share these conclusions with the group. • Be prepared to disseminate your report beyond your group and beyond the school. 11 ➢ Future Action • Celebrate. Relax. Reflect. • Take time to consolidate your learning and your gains before you start something new. chool districts across Alberta have organized school Approach improvement projects on a range of topics. Action research S can be applied to many of these initiatives. J. Glanz (1998) in Action Research: An Educational Leader’s Guide to School Improvement describes a four-step process for action research to examine educational problems in school settings. Steps in Action Research 1 ➢ Select a Focus Includes three steps: a) know what you want to investigate, b) develop some questions about the area you’ve chosen; and c) establish a plan to answer the question. As you focus on a problem, begin to pose some questions that will serve to guide your research. Developing guiding questions will eventually lead to specifying research questions and/or hypotheses. Selecting a focus also includes developing a research design. 152 ➢ Collect Data Once you have developed the research question you can begin to collect data that will provide evidence of the effectiveness of the intervention. You may administer tests, conduct surveys and interviews and examine documents. Collected data must be transformed into a useable form. 3 ➢ Analyze and Interpret Data Once the relevant data is collected, you need to begin the process of analysis and interpretation in order to arrive at a decision. 4 ➢ Take Action The research question is answered based on the data collected and a decision is made. Three possibilities exist: a) continue the intervention, b) disband the intervention, c) modify the intervention in some way(s). Action research is cyclical – the process doesn’t necessarily have to stop at any particular point. Information gained from previous research may open new avenues of research. (Glanz 1998, 24–26) Before you plan the steps... in your action research process, consider the context of your project. You will need to take many factors into consideration. For example: What is the purpose of the research project? Are you trying to solve a problem, implement a change or make an improvement? To what degree are different stakeholders aware of the issue? How much time is available to engage in the various aspects of the project? What financial resources are available to support the project? What is the desired impact of your project? Will the project be replicated in other classrooms or schools? How manageable is the project? What is the scope? How many people are involved? Who else has a legitimate right to be involved or should be involved in the project? 16 + READING Developing Your Knowledge of the Issue Once the research focus has been identified, the next step is to learn more about the issue. The amount of time spent on this initial review will vary depending on the amount of information available and how specifically the issue has been defined. People experienced in action research say that time spent on this activity is time well spent. Developing your knowledge of the issue and finding out what others have experienced will help you to refine your research question and to focus on the most likely solutions or interventions. There are three strategies to use in developing your background knowledge. Seek out expert knowledge from every available Talking source. Begin your search in your school district. Who has taken courses, attended conferences or applied this information in the classroom? Contact the universities and ask for the LEARNING names of professors or graduate students working in the area. Contact staff at the Alberta Teachers’ Association and regional consortia in your area to ask for names of people who have offered workshops on the topic. Contact these people by telephone or e-mail to arrange a meeting or to ask for advice. Accessing published material can be a challenge Reading because of the volume of reference material. Your teacher librarian or the library services at the Association can assist you in designing an efficient search of print and web-based materials. Refer to the bibliographies of material you find valuable to identify additional sources of information, such as writers working in the field. Conferences, workshops and courses are Learning excellent networking opportunities. These events can provide skills training and valuable materials to assist you in implementing your intervention or strategy. Just as valuable, however, is the experience of being immersed in the topic and discussing the issues with others interested in the same topic. 17 TALKING✐ During the learning phase develop a plan to save time and focus your research activities. Use the mindmap format below and brainstorm to identify potential sources of background information related to your research question. Sources of background knowledge Networking opportunities Published material Expert knowledge 18✐ A standard format makes it easier to compare materials and share information with others involved in the project. Many action researchers use recipe cards to collect and organize information. Use the following template to summarize the information; note three or four points under each heading. Topic: Title Author Date Publisher Information Highlights — What did the author say about this issue? Implications — What action do you recommend based on this information? Further Investigation — Is further investigation required in relation to this information? Name: Name Position Phone / Email Date Key Points Consideration Follow-up 19If you are working on a collaborative action research project, share the background research activities with members of the team. Plan to meet as a team every one to three weeks to share the information you have gathered. At these meetings take a critical stance in the discussion and challenge the information. Frequently you will discover conflicting information that you will have to evaluate. Your research plan may need to be modified to address the new knowledge you have gained. Documenting your information is important for a number of reasons: 7 It creates a permanent record for future reference. It helps to build continuity for the project if the participants change. This information is valuable if you plan to share your work with others. It can be used to support applications for funding. 20