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Action research in an educational context Professor Emeritus Lin Norton Applied Pedagogy residentail 28-29 Jan 2012 1.

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Presentation on theme: "Action research in an educational context Professor Emeritus Lin Norton Applied Pedagogy residentail 28-29 Jan 2012 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Action research in an educational context Professor Emeritus Lin Norton Applied Pedagogy residentail 28-29 Jan 2012 1

2 EDU 40017 2 The classic definition of action research Action research is simply a form of self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own practices, their understanding of these practices, and the situations in which the practices are carried out (Carr and Kemmis 1986: 162).

3 EDU 40017 3 A practical definition of action research Action research is action and research in the same process. It has twin, aims of action for change in an organisation or community, with research to increase our knowledge and understanding. It is not action for research (doing in order to increase understanding), nor research for action (increasing knowledge in order to be applied at a later time), but a coming together of two purposes in a single project or process. Action research is not a research method, as many methods of data collection may be used in action research projects. It is, rather, a way of doing research and acting to change situations at the same time. (Hughes, 1997)

4 EDU 40017 4 Definition of participatory action research: It seeks to bring together action and reflection, theory and practice, in participation with others, in the pursuit of practical solutions to issues of pressing concern to people, and more generally the flourishing of individual persons and their communities. (Emphasis added) (Reason & Bradbury, 2005, p. 1)

5 EDU 40017 5 Definition of practitioner action research Action research is a term which refers to a practical way of looking at your own work to check that it is as you would like it to be. Because action research is done by you, the practitioner, it is often referred to as practitioner based research; and because it involves you thinking about and reflecting on your work, it can also be called a form of self-reflective practice. McNiff (2002)

6 EDU 40017 6 Definition of pedagogical action research the fundamental purpose of pedagogical action research is to systematically investigate ones own teaching/learning facilitation practice with the dual aim of modifying practice and contributing to theoretical knowledge. Using a reflective lens to look at some problem or initiative and then determining a methodical set of steps to research that problem/initiative and to take action (Norton, 2009, xv-xvi)

7 EDU 40017 7 And what part does theory play? Jack Whitehead one of the most influential theorists in action research today He is originator of living educational theory A living educational theory is an individuals explanation of their educational influence in their own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of the social formations in which we live and work.

8 EDU 40017 8 Whiteheads living theory applied to action research In a living educational theory approach to action research, individuals hold their lives to account by producing explanations of their educational influences in their own learning in enquiries of the kind, 'How am I improving what I am doing?' They do this in contexts where they are seeking to live the values they use to give life meaning and purpose as fully as they can. The living educational theories of professional educators and other practitioner-researchers usually explain their educational influences in the learning of their students and can also explain their educational influences in the learning of social formations. (emphasis added) Whitehead (opening page of ActionResearch.net)

9 EDU 40017 9 Characteristics of action research in education 1.Carried out by practitioners (i.e. lecturers and teachers) not by educational researchers 2.Area of research is on some aspect of teaching, learning, assessment or related areas (policy, strategy) 3.Must be about improving some aspect of practice as well as contributing to knowledge 4.Social practice (not decontextualized from environment or researcher from the researched) 5.Reflective (outward, not inward) 6.Cyclical (progressive refinements) 7.Systematic (not soft option) (adapted from Kember 2000)

10 EDU 40017 10 Research paradigms in action research 1.Positivist –objective reality where knowledge is gained from data that can be independently verified. Often seen to be in direct opposition to the principles of AR 2.Interpretive – social sciences reaction to positivism, belief in a socially constructed subjectively-based reality, influenced by culture & history; researcher still interprets the data 3.Praxis- belief that knowledge is derived from practice, and practice is informed by knowledge, in an ongoing process; action researchers holding this view reject the notion of researcher neutrality, understanding that the most active researcher is often one who has most at stake in resolving a problematic situation. (OBrien, 1998)

11 EDU 40017 11 Methodologies in action research 1.Positivist: experimental design, questionnaires, measurement tools (quantitative data and statistical testing) 2.Interpretive- interviews, focus groups, narrative, drawings, life stories, diaries, case studies (qualitative data and phenomenographical approach) 3.Praxis – may include any of the above contextualised in an ongoing, reflective, often community based account where researcher may act in a number of roles: planner, leader, catalyser, facilitator, teacher, designer, listener, observer, synthesiser, reporter

12 EDU 40017 12 Using stories to help reflection ( Burchell & Dyson, 2000) Research Question: Can story writing support reflection on dissertation supervision in HE? Participants: 5 lecturers, (I was one of the authors) Task: write a story about their experience of supervising dissertation students (no models provided) Process: Stories shared by circulating within the group, but not discussed formally in group settings – referred to frequently in group meetings and v. helpful as a stimulus for group discussion RA analysed and took back to writers for further discussion (interview) Findings: used a variety of formats but all were examples of self-exploration & presented dilemmas, contradictions & ambiguities B& D claim that storytelling presented greater freedom to express ideas and feelings than in a conventional interview situation

13 EDU 40017 13 Peer feedback: using AR to overcome students reluctance to criticise. (McMahon, 2010) Context: seminar paper on human learning theory presented to group Cohort 1 (28 students) given list of ?s based on assessment criteria and also asked to write comments on paper Findings: Quality of feedback didnt improve Reflecting and acting: written questionnaire about students perceptions of peer assessment process Findings: 1.majority of students felt very uncomfortable with the idea of marking each others work and being critical- not their job to point out errors and didnt want to be responsible for fellow student failing.

14 EDU 40017 14 Peer feedback study cont… Cohort 2 (24 students): Changes introduced after consulting with cohort 1: 2 dedicated feedback forms provided to lessen confusion Reassurance that feedback to be formative only; tutor would do summative assessment; emphasis to be on friendly criticism to help peers improve next time Ownership of forms given to students; dont have to show to tutor if they dont want to Workshop on how to give constructive rather than hurtful feedback Findings (Discussion & Questionnaire): marked improvement in quality of feedback BUT clear split with half students preferring peer feedback and other half finding it not helpful Further two cycles with progressive refinements and overall conclusion

15 EDU 40017 15 Peer feedback study cont… Cohort 2 (24 students): Changes introduced after consulting with cohort 1: 2 dedicated feedback forms provided to lessen confusion Reassurance that feedback to be formative only; tutor would do summative assessment; emphasis to be on friendly criticism to help peers improve next time Ownership of forms given to students; dont have to show to tutor if they dont want to Workshop on how to give constructive rather than hurtful feedback Findings (Discussion & Questionnaire): marked improvement in quality of feedback BUT clear split with half students preferring peer feedback and other half finding it not helpful Further two cycles with progressive refinements and overall conclusion

16 June 2011 Aston University PGCPP residential 16 Pedagogical Action Research, reflective practice and SOTL: killing three birds with one stone 1.Carrying out research on your own teaching and/or on your students learning is interwoven with being a reflective practitioner. 2.Pedagogical action research is an empowering form of CPD, particularly in engaging with the scholarship of learning and teaching (SOTL). 3.Pedagogical action research needs to be disseminated and open to public scrutiny through peer reviewed conference papers and journal articles.


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