Action research is a process of reflective problem solving. It involves working as part of a team with the aim to improve the way issues and problems are addressed. The aim is to improve working practises and strategies ( Action research, 2009). It is not problem solving to try and find out what is wrong but rather trying to find out how to improve.(Ferrance, 2009).Action research is about changing strategies to improve skills and techniques and an ongoing quest to improve teaching methods. Teachers may carry out systematic studies of children whilst in the school environment with the purpose of identifying any problem areas that can be improved on. Action research is an excellent tool that can identify specific areas that need improvement and modifications, as it is an ongoing and reflective process (McDevitt & Ormond, 2010).References:Action research.(2009). Retrieved September 12th , 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_researchFerrance, E.(2009). Action Research. Retrieved September 12th, 2009, from http://www.alliance.brown.edu/pubs/themes_ed/act_research.pdfMcDevitt, T., & Ormrod, J. E. (2010). Child development and education. (4th ed.) Pearson International.
Action research is a process in which participants examine their own educational practice systematically and carefully, using the techniques of research. It is based on the following assumptions:Teachers and principals work best on problems they have identified for themselves• Teachers and principals become more effective when encouraged to examine and assess their own work and then consider ways of workingdifferently• Teachers and principals help each other by working collaboratively• Working with colleagues helps teachers and principals in their professional development• Teachers and principals work best on problems they have identified for themselvesReferences:Ferrance, E.(2009). Retrieved from http://www.alliance.brown.edu/pubs/themes_ed/act_research.pdf on 28th October 2009.
Commitment – Action research takes time, participants need to commit to the project for an extended period as it takes time to develop trust amongst each other, to observe, consider changes, adapt methods if necessary, reflect on findings and interpreting results.Collaboration- Each person contributes the same amount, all participants are equal, sharing information, giving and taking and listening to others ideas and suggestions.Concern – Action Research will develop close working relationships and care needs to be taken you become vulnerable. Trust is important not only in each other but in the value of the project.Consideration – Professional actions will be reviewed and careful consideration will be required, as reflection is a challenging and critical assessment of your own behaviour.Change – To be an effective teacher change is necessary and is an ongoing process. It can be difficult at times but an important element and the right support and nurturing is required.References:Borgia, E., T., & Schuler, D. (1996). Action Research in Early Childhood Education. ERIC Digest. Retrieved October 10th , 2009, from http://www.ericdigests.org/1997-2/action.html
Action research can be used to assist in the connection of theory with practice. Research theories concerning best practice are used to try and explainwhat is happening in the classroom with the assistance of direct observation, carried out by the teacher. Although these theories may not be completely practical to the individual teacher, they are still useful and provide some incite into why something is happening in the classroom. Observed information is then collected by the teacher and is used to help evolve theories associated with best practice resulting in a two way flow of information. Teachers can then apply these re informed theories into their own classroom and by being directly involved in this process, the daily classroom scheduling is acknowledged and the real, tangible problems or concerns are attended to. (Johnson 2005)
Research in education is used to construct theories that are intended to help teachers run effective and productive classrooms. However, these theories presented by researchers are sometimes disconnected from what teachers are actually experiencing in the classroom. They are often impractical and do not take into account the time restraints and daily needsof a teacher. This research tends to focus on hypothetical situations that a teacher may not be able to relate to in his/her classroom. Moreover, the terminology used in academic journals is often complicated. The information conveyed in this type of research seems to be delivered in one direction without taking into account teachers opinions or the actual difficulties and problems encountered in the classroom. (Johnson 2005)
Identifying problems within the classroom shows the students you are taking an interest in their learning and being proactive to make changes that improve overall operations. (McDevitt & Ormrod 2010) Basically, it shows that you care about the development of your students and intend to deliver the most interesting, informative and relevant material possible. In addition, implementing practices to overcome difficulties allows students to enjoy a more positive and productive learning environment.Whilst working in a joint effort to improve the learning environment, teachers are brought closer together and morale amongst staff is improved. (McDevitt & Ormrod 2010) Therefore the benefits of action research are not only restricted to the individual teacher and classroom as they may also umbrella the entire school community.
Action research encourages better awareness of problems within the classroom that may have been previously overlooked. (McDevitt & Ormrod 2010) Greater awareness improves ones ability to identify problems quickly and adapt and adjust to different situations. Awareness also leads to the development of new ideas. (Johnson 2005) Once a problem is identified the teacher must devise a system for dealing with or solving the particular issue, theses new ideas keep things fresh and interesting for both the student and the teacher. All of these processes combined improve knowledge and skills that can be directly implemented into the classroom. (Johnson 2005) By improving knowledge and skills a teachers own growth and development improves, they continue to move forward and remain motivated. Moreover by having a direct influence on the improvement of the classroom environment, provides teachers with the feeling of ownership of their profession.(Johnson 2005)
Various positive effects result from action research leading to an empowering experience (Sagor 2000) Action research is always relevant to the researcher and the setting because the parties involved in the study are the ones who will directly benefit from the research.(Sagor 2000) When teachers are permitted to collect their own information about issues in the classroom and make decisions accordingly, they become empowered(Johnson 2005) and when positive changes result from the implementation of an affective action plan the teacher can feel rewarded in the knowledge that they alone have brought about the improvements . As stated by Sagor 2000“When teachers have convincing evidence that their work has made a real difference in their students lives, the countless hours and endless efforts of teaching seem worthwhile” Observing students improvement gives meaning to a teachers work.
The Action Research method is a cyclical process, an ongoing, systematic study and reflective investigation of a particular problem or issue. There are six major steps involved, the first of which is to identify and limit the focus area. You should take care at this early stage as careful planning is required in order to limit false starts and frustrations. Having identified the problem or issue to be addressed, you need to gather preliminary information by reading existing data, related research literature and checking the internet for related topics. You can then decide upon a particular question which will form the foundation for your research. An important guideline in choosing a question is to ask if it is something over which the teacher has influence, is it something of interest and worth the time and effort that will be spent? Sometimes there is a discrete problem that is readily identifiable. Or, the problem to be studied may come from a feeling of discomfort or tension in the classroom, (Ferrance, E.) The next five slides will give a more in-depth look at the methodology of conducting Action Research.
The second step is to develop a research plan, deciding upon which data collection techniques you will use, the timescale involved and who to include in the research. Do you wish to employ quantitative methods of data collection, (which can be counted) or qualitative methods, (narrative data). It may be appropriate to employ a combination of methods. Who is to be involved in the research - Children, Teachers, Parents? How many participants should be included? At this point you need to consider the question of ethics and ensure that all those involved give their permission. You should be certain that your research does not breach ethical guidelines and does not do harm to the children involved. You must, 1. Keep your supervisor informed, 2. Be tentative in your conclusions, 3. Ensure that you have adequate training to administer tests, 4. Be sensitive to children’s perspectives, 5. Maintain confidentiality, (McDevitt and Ormrod, pg. 58).
Gathering data is vital in deciding what action is to be taken, and in the third step of the Action Research process, you should aim to incorporate at least three methods of data collection into your research plan. This is known as ‘triangulation’, and is particularly helpful because multiple sources of information give a better understanding of what is happening in your classroom / school. You should select sources of data most appropriate to your research, it must be relevant, and decide upon an appropriate timescale. There are numerous sources of data: ‘Quantitative’ sources such as test scores, attendance records and demographic statistics are useful because they are generally objective and easy to count and interpret, whereas ‘Qualitative’ sources such as interviews, observations, questionnaires, case studies and samples of students’ work are equally useful because they demonstrate subjective ideas, opinions, thoughts and feelings. In each case, data collection must be systematic and structured, truthful and unbiased.
The purpose of analysis is reduce the mountain of data collected into manageable sets of information to facilitate understanding and draw conclusions, remembering that it is crucial that the analysis of data must match the research question. In the fourth step of the Action Research method, you need to follow four processes – Sort, Sift, Discard, Catalogue, asking the questions, ‘what are the themes?’ and ‘how much data supports these themes?’. (Sagar, 1992). Quantitative data and qualitative data should be analysed using different methods. Quantitative data may be formed into statistics which can be examined and compared, whereas qualitative data is best analysed by looking for patterns, categories and themes, (Mertler, 2006) and organising this information into tables for comparison. The key lies in "looking systematically at all the data collected to see what trends or patterns emerge and what conclusions, if any, can be drawn"(Sagor, 1992). You need to ensure that the new data you producefrom the data you have analysed, is valid and reliable, accurate and free from personal bias. purpose of analysis is reduce the mountain of data collected into manageable sets of information to facilitate understanding and draw conclusions, remembering that it is crucial that the analysis of data must match the research question. To do this, you should follow four processes – Sort, Sift, Discard, Catalogue, asking the questions, ‘what are the themes?’ and ‘how much data supports these themes?’. (Sagar, 1992). Quantitative data and qualitative data should be analysed using different methods. Quantitative data may be formed into statistics which can be examined and compared, whereas qualitative data is best analysed by looking for patterns, categories and themes, (Mertler, 2006) and organising into tables. The key lies in "looking systematically at all the data collected to see what trends or patterns emerge and what conclusions, if any, can be drawn"(Sagor, 1992). You need to ensure that the new data you produce,from the collected data you have analysed, is valid and reliable, accurate and free from personal bias.
The fifth step of the Action Research process is to develop and implement your Action Plan. Based upon the original question and the analysed data, it may be appropriate to implement change on a individual, collaborative or school-wide basis. The Action Plan is the teacher’s tool, an instrument of change which allows new procedures to be implemented while their effectiveness is evaluated. The plan must be structured, documented and implemented with commitment. It is advisable that only one variable is altered at a time in order to determine which action is responsible for the outcome, (Ferrance, E.) therefore you should proceed with caution before implementing multiple strategies or interventions. The Action Plan should continue for a predetermined, appropriate period of time and data should continue to be collected throughout, using the same methods as in the collection of the original data, in order to reliably evaluate the
The sixth stage of the Action Research method is critical, systematic reflection and review. This allows the researcher to objectively determine how effective or ineffective the action plan has been and decide what further action is necessary. The following questions should be asked: What did we intend to do? What actually happened? Why did this happen? What will we do next time? Does the data clearly provide supporting evidence for any improvement observed? If not, what changes need to be made in order to achieve better results? An equally important part of Action Research is to share and communicate your results with other educators who may be interested in, and benefit from your study. Results may be shared informally among your colleagues or through a presentation at a staff meeting. More formal presentation, which can include written summaries, may be made to school boards, principals, students and parents and results may be reproduced in various written forms and circulated appropriately among colleagues, school boards, students and parents, (Mertler, 2006). The action of evaluating and presenting evidence to colleagues will invariably promote discussion and new questions. So the cycle of Action Research continues.
Action research is ........<br /><ul><li>“A reflective process of progressive problem solving” (Action research,2009).
Systematic studies of children whilst in school to help aid more efficient teaching and address problems.(McDevitt & Ormond, 2010).</li></ul>Problem Solving – A quest for knowledge<br />
How do we define Action Research?<br /><ul><li>“A process in which participants examine their own educational practice systematically and carefully” (Ferrance, 2009).
A collaborative activity among teachers searching for solutions and improvements to identified problem areas. (Ferrance, 2009).</li></li></ul><li>Components of Action Research<br />The 5 C’S..<br /><ul><li>Commitment
Share and Communicate Results</li></li></ul><li><ul><li>The active participation of teachers and others is part of what makes AR a viable and useful tool. The investment of time and energy by the participants provides a sense of ownership and connection to the process and outcomes, (Ferrance).
When teachers see the value of their work as they progress through the steps and the reflection time that is used to discuss strategies and methods, they find that the benefits go far beyond student achievement, (Ferrance).
Practitioners develop skills in analyzing their own teaching methods and begin to unconsciously utilize the principles of action research in their professional life, (Ferrance).
It is important that we communicate our results and intentions to colleagues, students and parents to share and maximise the benefits and desired outcomes from our research (Johnson, 2005)
Action Research is a positive, supportive and proactive resource for change, (Borgis, E.T & Schuler, D. (1996).</li></li></ul><li>Conclusion<br /><ul><li>Action research has the potential to facilitate change in educational settings and enhances the growth and development of teaching practices, (Johnson, 2005)
Although change is not easy to implement, we must recognise that it is necessary to enable us to move forward, and we must be able to adapt and adjust our practices in accordance with the constant changes that occur in society, (Johnson, 2005)
Action Research is a step-by-step process that may be adapted by educators or schools to address their need for learning more about practice and successful interventions. Educators are working in their own environment, with their own students, on problems that affect them directly, (Ferrance).
Action Research is not a linear process. It is viewed as cyclical in nature. That is to say, whereas Action Research has a clear beginning, it does not necessarily have a clear end point. A given project may never have a clear end, (Mertler, C, 2006).</li>
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