How to conduct Action Research in Education

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Professional Learning and Leadership Development Directorate Planning evaluating implementing revisiting ACTION RESEARCH IN EDUCATION GUIDELINES 2nd Edition Action Reflecting research analysing reporting sharing ObservingThis document is provided as a general reference for school leaders, teachers and staff involved in action research in the NSW Department of Education and Training. © State of NSW, Department of Education and Training Professional Learning and Leadership Development Directorate. 2010 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any process, electronic or otherwise, in any material form or transmitted to any other person or stored electronically in any form, without the prior written permission of the Department of Education and Training, except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. In particular, the user of the data agrees: £ to retrieve documents for information only £ to save or print a single copy for personal use only and not to reproduce any major extract or the entire document without the prior written permission of the Department of Education and Training £ to acknowledge that the data is provided by the Department of Education and Training. This will also apply to another website or internet service provider who establishes a link to this website £ not to make any charge for providing the data to another person without the prior written consent of the NSW Department of Education and Training £ to include this copyright notice in any copy made £ not to modify the data without the express prior written permission of the NSW Department of Education and TrainingACTION RESEARCH IN EDUCATION Wth a is cation researc? h Action research is the term which describes the integration of action (implementing a plan) with research (developing an understanding of the effectiveness of this implementation). The original concept is sometimes attributed to Kurt Lewin (1890–1947). Research often conjures a picture in people’s minds of academics working in isolation for years proving theories. As distinct from academic research, those involved in action research participate in an ongoing testing and monitoring of improvements in their practice. They work in a collaborative way to identify issues in their organisation and develop processes for improvement. In education, action research is also known as teacher research. It is one method teachers use for improvement in both their practice and their students’ learning outcomes. The central goal of action research is positive educational change. This change impacts signic fi antly on the teachers involved and how they teach. In a school setting, participants could include teachers, students, parents and community members. As in all forms of research, records are kept of the process and findings are published or presented to a wider audience. Table 1: Comparison of academic or formal research with action research Formal research Action research training needed extensive little knowledge that is generalisable to results for improving practice in a local goals a wider audience situation method of review of previous research findings problems currently faced or improvements identifying and extensions of them needed in a set of classrooms or a school problems extensive enquiry into all research some primary sources but also use of literature review previously conducted on this topic secondary sources plus what practitioners using primary sources are doing in other schools random or representative students and/or members of the school sampling preferably with large populations community flexible, quick time frame, control through research design rigorous controls over long periods triangulation inductive reasoning – observations, deductive reasoning – theory to approach patterns, interpretations, hypothesis to data to confirmation recommendations tests leading to statistical generally grouping of raw data using analysis of data significance descriptive statistics application of theoretical significance practical significance results Teachers use action research because: 1. it deals with their own problems, not someone else’s 2. it can start now—or whenever they are ready—providing immediate results 3. action research provides them with opportunities to better understand, and therefore improve, their educational practices 4. as a process, action research promotes the building of stronger relationships among staff 5. importantly, action research provides educators with alternative ways of viewing and approaching educational questions providing a new way of examining their own practices. Adapted from Mertler, C.A. & Charles, C.M., (2008) Introduction to education research, 6th Edition, Allyn & Bacon, Boston, Mass, page 308. 1 © © S St ta at te e o of f N Ne ew w S So ou ut th h W Wa alle es s,, D De ep pa ar rt tm me en nt t o of f E Ed du uc ca at tiio on n a an nd d T Tr ra aiin niin ng g P Pr ro of fe es ss siio on na all L Le ea ar rn niin ng g a an nd d L Le ea ad de er rs sh hiip p D De ev ve ello op pm me en nt t D Diir re ec ct to or ra at te e 2 20 01 10 0Professional Learning and Leadership Development Directorate Action research is characterised as being: £ integrated conducted as part of a teacher’s normal daily practice £ reflective a process which alternates between plan implementation and critical reflection £ flexible methods, data and interpretation are refined in the light of the understanding gained during the research process £ active a process designed to generate change in small steps £ relevant meets the needs of teachers and/or their students £ cyclical involving a number of cycles with each clarifying issue leading to a deeper understanding and more meaningful outcomes £ focused on a single issue of school improvement £ collaborative teachers and leaders working together to improve student outcomes £ planned an organised approach to answering a question £ learning simultaneous construction of new knowledge by teachers about their practice. Everyday you analyse what worked and did not work in your lessons. You think of ways to do it better next time. ‘What if’ I do this instead? The ‘what if’ is a mini research question. Asking around to see if anyone else has tried your ‘what if’ and what happened when they tried it is a mini search of previous research. Trying it out in your classroom, observing what happens, reflecting on the actions and planning to re-use the strategy complete the action research cycle. Action research, as outlined in the following pages, is only a more organised and formal way of conducting research in a manner that can be shared with colleagues for professional growth. The following four stages are features of the ideal model. That does not mean that this is how all action research projects will work. The flexibility of action research based on constant evaluation and reflection means that the cycles may be truncated as new ways to proceed become clear. Planning £ identifying the issue to be changed £ looking elsewhere for information. Similar projects may be useful, as might professional reading. £ developing the questions and research methods to be used £ developing a plan related to the specic fi environment. In the school setting this could involve personnel, budgets and the use of outside agencies. Acting £ trialling the change following your plan £ collecting and compiling evidence £ questioning the process and making changes as required. 2 © State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training Professional Learning and Leadership Development Directorate 2010ACTION RESEARCH IN EDUCATION Observing £ analysing the evidence and collating the findings £ discussing the findings with co-researchers and /or colleagues for the interpretation £ writing the report £ sharing your findings with stakeholders and peers Reflecting £ evaluating the first cycle of the process £ implementing the findings or new strategy £ revisiting the process It might be represented diagrammatically as this: Planning identifying evaluating informing implementing organising revisiting Action Reflecting Acting research analysing trialling reporting collecting sharing questioning Observing Figure 1: One ideal action research cycle When working through your action research remember that: £ it is cyclical and progress is made in small chunks £ it is based heavily on critical reflection £ you can use a wide range of methods for collecting data but it may be advisable to limit these to a manageable number £ participants should have meaningful roles in the collection and presentation of data £ because of the e fl xibility of the process and the constant ree fl ction, not every cycle will be complete. There may be times when it is advisable to stop mid stream and start a new cycle. 3 © State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training Professional Learning and Leadership Development Directorate 2010p e p t e s t s d n t o x e c e n s C r i t i c a l r e Professional Learning and Leadership Development Directorate Identify action Plan Reflect Action research Act Observe Figure 2: Cycles of action research When starting action research the first stage of the cycle would be identifying the issue. In the next cycle the issue would already be identie fi d from the data collection or from trials in other schools. Over the next few pages, each of the stages of the action research cycle will be explored in more depth. Refer to Tip 1: Hints for conducting Action Research in the Appendix. References Collaborative Action Research Working together for improvement, Australian Council for Educational Administration & NSW Department of School Education (1996) Ferrance, Eileen, (2000) Action research, Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown University research.pdf accessed 9/1/10 Hughes, Ian, (2004) Action Research Electronic Reader, The University of Sydney, Sydney, accessed 9/1/10 Mertler, C.A. & Charles, C.M., (2008) Introduction to education research, 6th Edition, Allyn & Bacon, Boston, Mass. Mills, Geoffrey. E., (2007) Action research: a guide for the teacher researcher, Pearson Education, USA. 4 © State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training Professional Learning and Leadership Development Directorate 2010 f l e c t i o n

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