ACTION RESEARCH “Action research is characterized as research that is done by teachers for themselves” (Mertler, 2009). Teachers examine their own classrooms, instructional strategies, assessment procedures, and interactions with student learners in order to improve their quality and effectiveness.
WHAT ACTION RESEARCH IS AND IS NOTWhat it is… What it is not…• A process that improves • Problem-solving education through change• Collaborative • Doing research on or about people• Cyclical • Linear• Practical and relevant • Conclusive• Within context of teacher’s • Generalizing to larger environment populations• How we can do things better • Why we do certain things• Explores, discovers and seeks • The implementation of to find creative solutions predetermined answers• A way to improve instructional • A fad practice by observing, revising, and reflecting
VIDEO: ACTION RESEARCH MADE SIMPLE Action Research Made SimpleKey Characteristics Addresses Real Life Problems Constructs Knowledge Promotes Change Collaborative / Participatory
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ACTION RESEARCHFERRANCE (2000) Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist and educator, first formulated the idea of performing research in a “natural” setting in the 1940s. No distinction between the research study and the problem to be solved. Proposed that research should be cyclical rather than linear. Stephen Corey was among the first to use action research in education and he stated the following: We are convinced that the disposition to study…the consequences of our teaching is more likely to change and improve our practices than is reading about what someone else has discovered of his teaching (Corey, 1953, p. 70).
MODELS OF ACTION RESEARCH Many models exist but all share the same basic principles which are: A central problem or topic Observation or monitoring takes place Collection and synthesis of data Some type of action is taken Next stage of action research (varies)
CENTRAL FEATURES OF PARTICIPATORY ACTIONRESEARCH (KEMMIS & WILKINSON, 1998) It is a social process – people individually and collectively attempt to discover who they are and redevelop these identities in order to make improvements It is participatory – people can only do action research “on” themselves and not “on” others It is practical and collaborative – It is research done “with” others where people strive to reconstruct their interactions in a more productive way.
CENTRAL FEATURES OF PARTICIPATORYACTION RESEARCH (KEMMIS & WILKINSON,1998) It is emancipatory – It helps people break loose and recover from the constraints of unproductive social structures which limit self-development and the ability to determine actions. If not possible to be released from limitations, how best to work within them and around them. It is critical – A way in which people can deliberately set out to change something in their teaching and learning environment that is irrational, unproductive or unjust. It is recursive – Helps teachers examine reality in order to change it and continually try to make it better. A process of learning by doing with others to improve interactions in our social world.
ACTION RESEARCH INTERACTING SPIRAL(ERNEST STRINGER, 2007)
STEPS IN ACTION RESEARCHFERRANCE (2000) Identify a problem area Meaningful, attainable and within teacher’s influence Higher order question that is specific and concise Collection and organization of data Portfolios, interviews, photos, diaries, field notes, videos, journals, case studies, checklists, surveys Appropriate, easy to collect, and readily available Triangulate data (i.e. use three or more sources) Organize to identify themes; can be arranged by gender, classroom, school, grade level, age, etc. Interpretation of data Analyze and identify major themes Quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods
STEPS IN ACTION RESEARCH Action based on data Use the data collected complemented by current research to develop a plan of action Alter only one variable Document and collect data during action phase Reflection Evaluate the results Was the intervention successful? Can the positive results be directly attributed to the variable addressed? If unsuccessful, what could be done in subsequent attempts to elicit more favorable results?
EXAMINATION OFAN ACTION RESEARCH STUDY Action Research: Using Wordles for Teaching Foreign Language Writing by Baralt, Pennestri, and Selvandin (2011)
CONTEXT Eighteen students in an intermediate-level Spanish Foreign Language class at a private research university Attended class three times per week for fifty minutes each Studied Spanish writing and grammar Students wrote four major compositions per semester
IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM Two main issues in students’ writing:1. Continuous repetition of errors2. Reliance on high frequency words without attempting to use new vocabulary in writing
GATHER DATA Reviewed literature on the use of datavisualization. Acknowledged there is little or no research and ideas for teachers are mostly found online. For example, The Clever Sheep Website (Lucier, 2008), provides 20 ideas for using Wordle. Analyzed students’ writing compositions for word variety and grammatical accuracy Consulted with instructional technology consultant and decided to use wordles as a teaching tool
INTERPRET DATA Noted word frequency counts from students’ compositions and a whole-class-based word cloud Teaching reflection about the class discussion Students were excited to see the whole class Wordle each week and interpreted their own data The procedure was used for all four compositions
ACT ON EVIDENCE Instructor collected compositions and created a whole class Wordle Shared the image with the class and had a group discussion Set goals for the next writing assignment; attempted to use a wider range of vocabulary and higher level words Teacher asked for students’ overall perceptions at the end of the semester
EVALUATE RESULTS Wordles helped to show students’ progress Students used more vocabulary in their compositions Facilitated class discussions about the writing process Both the students and instructor agreed that using Wordles created excitement about writing. Effective, novel, and enjoyable. Students incorporated more varied vocabulary, used grammar more accurately, and had more content in their writing. Workshop days became more student-centered
NEXT STEPS Share results with other educators Encourage others to use Wordles in different teaching contexts and across different languages The instructor and students both found the use of wordles to be beneficial so one would presume a continuation of its use although the study report did not clarify this.
LIMITATIONS Lack of generalizability Findings of action research are typically only relevant to the specific classroom being investigated, its students and its own unique characteristics It may yield different results in other classrooms, contexts or languages. As with any technology, teachers must ensure that the software works with their computer systems; Wordle requires a Java-enabled web browser
WRITING ACTION RESEARCH REPORTS Reports vary depending on the variables, context, and action involved but most include: Introduction Area of focus Defining the variables Research questions Review of related literature Description of the Intervention or Innovation Data Collection and Considerations Data Analysis and Interpretation Conclusions Reflection and Action Plan (Mertler, 2009) Examples of Action Research Reports written by teachers who participated in a school-wide project
DISADVANTAGES OF ACTION RESEARCH Lack of Time • Action Research is demanding of space and time, both of which are stretched to their limits. Validity • Inevitable research bias Results are not Generalizable • Although a researcher’s findings may be tested by another teacher in their own classroom Range of Models and Process • Action Research is a messy process and the constraints of the models may “trap teachers”
PASSION IS INTEGRAL TO ACTION RESEARCH Potential passions for coming up with a research question (Yendol-Hoppey & Dana 2008): Helping an individual student Improving the curriculum Developing more knowledge of the content Experimenting with teaching strategies Exploring the relationship between your personal beliefs and classroom practice Exploring the connection between your personal and professional identities Advocating for social justice Understanding the teaching and learning environment
TIME TO REFLECT! After viewing our presentation on action research, what nags you about your teaching practices that you’d like to change? At your table groups, use the questions on the next slide to come up with a possible research question(s) that you could test in your own classroom. Examples include but are not limited to: teaching method, identifying a problem, examining an area of interest, classroom environment, classroom management, evaluation, etc.
EXAMPLES OF ACTION RESEARCH QUESTIONS What happens to the quality of student writing when we implement a coding system for grammar errors? What happens to my students’ ability to do basic multiplication facts when we do a two minute review drill at the start of each class? How does teaching about gender inequalities affect the perceptions of students towards gender constructs in our society?
ACTIVITY AND CLASS DISCUSSION:WRITE ACTION RESEARCH QUESTIONSPINE (2009) I would like to improve by __________________. I am perplexed by _____________________. I am really curious about ____________________. Something I really think would make a difference is _______________________. Something I would really like to change is ____________________. What happens to student learning in my classroom when I ___________________? How can I implement ______________________? How can I improve _______________________?
CONCLUDING POINTS Professional development is an important part of being a teacher and action research is a slightly more formalized version of the professional development process used with pre-service teachers. Action research is a way in which educators can work collaboratively in a teacher-directed professional learning community. For more resources, check out our blog! www.teachactionresearch.blogspot.ca
REFERENCES Baralt, M., Pennestri, S., & Selvandin, M. (2011). Using Wordles to Teach ForeignLanguage Writing. Language Learning & Technology, 15(2), 12-22. Ferrance, E. (2000). Action Research. Providence, RI, USA. Retrieved November14, 2012 from http://www.lab.brown.edu/pubs/themes_ed/act_research.pdf Kemmis, B., & Wilkinson, M. (1998). Participatory Action Research and the Studyof Practice. In B. Atweh, S. Kemmis, & P. Weeks, Action Research in Practice: Partnershipsfor Social Justice in Education (pp. 21-37). Lucier, R. (2008). Top 20 uses for Wordle. Retrieved November 18, 2012 fromhttp://thecleversheep.blogspot.ca/2008/10/top-20-uses-for-wordle.html Mertler, C. (2009). Action Research. Thousand Oaks, California, USA: SagePublications, Inc. Pine, G. (2009). Teacher Action Research. Thousand Oaks, California: SagePublications, Inc.Stringer, E. T. (2007). Action Research (3rd ed.). London: Sage Publications, Inc. Yendol-Hoppey, D. & Dana, N. (2008). The Reflective Educator’s Guide toClassroom Research. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press. Waters-Adams, S. (2006). Action Research in EducationRetrieved from http://www.edu.plymouth.ac.uk/resined/actionresearch/arhome.htm
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