Plan Action Involve others in the implementation of the research See what happens Reflect on the findings Amend original plan What is Action Research?
Kurt Lewin (the founder?) 1890 – 1947 …a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action and research leading to social action… that uses …a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of a circle of planning, action, and fact- finding about the result of the action… Lewin (1946) http://www.erzwiss.uni-hamburg.de/personal/hoffmann/texte/lewin/lewin.htm
Small scale involvement in the world, using research methods to study the effects of actions and making changes based on the results In most cases it is practitioner research, that is, it is done by people investigating their own professional practices, and the methods used are often qualitative in character What is Action research?
Action research can be conceptualised within two broad perspectives (Walker, 2001) It may be concerned with professional development Or used as an emancipatory method concerned with social justice, What is Action research?
It is a term which refers to the processes of people conducting their real-life enquiries, as they ask, individually and collectively, How do I improve what I am doing for our mutual benefit? McNiff et al (2003:p7) Gibson (1985) likened the action research community to the Salvation Army.
Elliot (1991) sums up the key features of action research claiming that… …action research is about improving practice rather than producing knowledge. What is Action research?
The Action Research Cycle PlanAct ObserveReflect
PlanAct ObserveReflect ObserveReflect Act Revised Plan 1st Cycle 2nd Cycle It progresses in a continuously cyclic fashion
Stages of Action Research 1.Identifying a problem/general idea/initial idea 2.Fact finding 3.Planning 4.Taking initial action 5.Evaluating the outcomes of the action 6.Amending the plan 7.Taking second action After Lowe (2007: p106)
A simple example A tutor feels that one of their classes is not engaging with their session as effectively as they could.
Plan: Consult with learners Tutor consults with the class to find out what may be causing the problem Thus the learners become involved in the research from the start
Collaboration The learners involved in this process constitute collaborators rather than participants The learners acted as a type of focus group here, however observations, interviews and/or questionnaires could have been used as an alternative The questioning revealed that the group would prefer less chalk and talk and more learner centred activities
Act on their views Lesson plans were adjusted to include more learner centred interaction and involvement Topic worksheets were produced for a session
Act on their views The worksheets were aimed at promoting group work without loss of academic standard
Observe the effects The learners views on the session were collected from various sources –Direct tutor observation –Direct learner feedback –E-mails sent after the session
Reflect on its success? These views were recorded and reviewed at a meeting with all of the collaborators. They provided the focus for the reflection (by all involved) on the outcomes of the project. Further new strategies emerged that facilitated the start of the 2 nd stage of research.
Writing up the research This can be written up after the first cycle even if later cycles are in progress
Benefits for FE staff It focuses on small scale projects undertaken by individuals who are involved with the situation being investigated (Griffiths and Davies, 1995) The collaborative nature of the method would enable a research culture to grow quickly within virgin institutions The method links with critical reflection which is well understood within FE
Advantages Hoyle & John (1995) suggested professionality could be extended by involvement with small scale research projects and action research is well suited for this type of investigation Noffke (1994) claimed that action research would support the professionalisation process of teachers
Problems It does not allow for the inference of causal relationships (McNIff & Whitehead, 2006) Because it is carried out by individuals with a vested interest in the research its validity has been questioned. It is seen by some researchers as anecdotal, subjective and biased (Greenwood & Levin, 1999) Within the positivist tradition it has been dismissed as unscientific
References Elliot, J (1991), Action Research for Educational Change, Milton Keynes:the Open University. Gibson (1985) Critical times for action research. Cambridge journal of education, 15(1), pp 59 – 64. Greenwood, D. & Levin, N. (1999) Introduction to action research: Social research for change. Sage: London. Hoyle, E. & John, P, D. (1995) Professional knowledge and professional practice Cassell: London. Lewin, K. (1946) Action Research and Minority Problems Journal of Social Issues 2: 34-46.
References Lowe, M. (2007) Beginning research McNiff, J., Lomax, P. & Whitehead, J. (2003) You and your action research project, (2 nd edition), London: RoutledgeFalmer McNiff, J. & Whitehead, J. (2006) All you need to know about action research. Sage: London Noffke, S. (1994) Action research: towards the next generation. Educational Action Research. 2, pp 9 – 22 Walker, M. (2001) Mapping our higher education project IN Walker, M. (ed) Reconstructing professionalism in university teaching: Teachers and learners in action. SRHE & The Open University: Buckingham.