Action Research Overview The purpose of action research is to assess and evaluat
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Action Research Overview
The purpose of action research is to assess and evaluate professional practice in ways that improve understanding and result in constructive change through action. Educators can use action research to systematically investigate and take action on a problem (concern, issue, problem, or need) in their school. Action research has multiple purposes. It can be conducted to prepare for or inform an action plan and thus serve a formative purpose (research for action). It can be conducted during an ongoing action plan to monitor and evaluate process and implementation, so adjustments can be made (research in action). It can be conducted to determine the outcomes or effects of an action plan and thus serve a summative purpose (research of action). Action research can serve all three purposes in succession (for-action to prepare for or inform; in-action to monitor and adjust; and of-action to measure outcomes or effects).
In this course, you will use formative action research (research for action), also described as problem defining or descriptive research, to develop an action plan or a plan for future action(s) and explore options for evaluating the outcome of future action(s). This project is similar to a proposal in that you will only implement/evaluate portions of the action plan you create in this course (i.e., collecting existing data). While you will collect and analyze some existing data, you will not carry out the entire research plan. Access the Formative Action Research Paper Outline from the link on this page. Organize your research paper in this format (headings, subheadings, etc.).
Review the resource Thinking it Through – Leading Change (at the bottom of this page).
Create a Word document for your response.
Use current APA format for the paper, title page, references page, and in-text citations for your action research paper.
Follow the Formative Action Research Paper Outline for headings and subheadings (link below).
Follow the directions to complete Part 1 and Part 2.
Before you submit your document, save a copy to your desktop. You will refer to this document in the Module 2-4 assignments.
Follow the directions to submit your final 5- to 7-page Word document (consisting of both parts 1 and 2).
Access the Formative Action Research Paper Outline (Links to an external site.) for use in this assignment.
General Overview of the Action Research Project:
Through the assignments in this course, you will collect and analyze existing data to create an action research plan. All of the assignments are a work in progress, building on each other from week to week. Prior to beginning your action research project, you should read and reflect on the resource, Thinking it Through – Leading Change, at the end of this page.
In Module 1, (this week) you will:
establish a purpose for your research.
select a problem (issue, concern problem, need) in your school.
compose research question(s) to guide your investigation.
conduct a literature review.
You will begin the literature review in Module 1 and complete the literature review in Module 2 to help answer your research question(s).
In Module 2, next week, you will complete the literature review you started in Module 1. A literature review is a summary of what you have read. However, the literature review overviews a specific topic of interest to you and includes a critical analysis of the relationship of different works and the works connect or do not connect to your own research.
In Module 3, you will complete the data collection section of the Formative Action Research Paper Outline. You will describe sources you specify in your data collection plan from Module 2.
In Module 4, you will complete your Future Action Plan and complete a force field analysis focused on solving your issue, problem, concern or need.
In Module 5, you will reflect on the process and the feedback you received as you consider how action research could be useful for a school leader.
Directions for Module 1
Part 1: Developing A Purpose, Problem Statement, And Research Questions
Step 1. Get Your Bearings
Review the course readings and learning objects that describe the steps of action research. Begin to think about a problem or issue at your school that you would like to address. Also, be sure to review the resource titled, ”Thinking It Through – Leading Change” that is located at the end of this page.
Step 2. Problem Definition
Consider a full range of issues, concerns, problems, and needs in your practice.
What wonderings do you have about your professional practice? What do you need to know more about to be optimally effective? What classroom, school, or workplace situations need to be examined? What methods and practices require more study? Think specifically about your school or organization and avoid problems (issue, concern, problem, need) beyond your control. Sometimes it helps to use sentence stems as starting points to identify an issue you want to research such as the following: I would like to improve ____. I might be more effective in my work if I knew more about ____. The first thing I would change in my school/organization if I could is ____. Many types of problems are suitable for action research: integrating curriculum, improving or experimenting with teaching strategies, adapting to the needs of a group, finding a way to motivate students or faculty, making learning more student-centered, building character and community, improving assessments, etc.
Step 3. Problem Selection
Select one problem (issue, concern, problem, need) that is of interest to you and appropriate to action research. From your wonderings and thoughts about what you need to know or examine, select a problem (issue, concern, problem, need), and explain why it is important to your practice.
The following may stimulate your thinking as you look for a suitable problem (issue, concern, problem, need) and move through your action research project.
Action Research to Improve Teaching and Learning – Roberta Ross-Fisher (Links to an external site.)
Step 4. Gathering Data to Further Define the Problem and Establish Purpose
How do you know it is a problem (issue, concern, problem, need)? What evidence do you have that the problem is worth investigating? What data sources support the problem you have identified? What are the chances that an investigation might lead to action on your part to improve the situation or resolve the problem? From the information you have gathered, what is the purpose of your research?
Gather information you already have about the selected problem (issue, concern, problem, need) including existing quantitative and qualitative data and your own observations.
You may choose the format for presenting the information you gather. You may describe the information in narrative format or use visuals such as concept maps or other analytic graphics.
Use the information you have gathered to further define the purpose and problem (issue, concern, problem, need) of your research.
Step 5. Problem Statement
Identify what you are trying to find out in a problem statement. What is the problem (issue, concern, problem, need) your research is addressing? The problem statement should align with your research purpose and may sound repetitive. Clearly articulate your problem (issue, concern, problem, need) in an explicit problem statement. Your problem statement may begin with the phrase, “The problem is…”
Step 6. Researchable Questions
From your problem statement, formulate 1-3 researchable questions. Each question should be narrowly focused and specific. For example, a teacher may have noticed girls are not performing well in chemistry labs. The problem is reasonably clear, so she might ask, “Why are girls not performing as well as boys?” “How could traditional gender roles, and stereotypes be factors?” “How could grouping by gender during lab time improve the performance of female students?” If you have “why” questions in mind, they will need to be recast to make them researchable beginning with “how,” “what,” “does,” “will,” etc. If you have “yes/no” questions in mind, they will need to be revised so that they are open-ended.
Another example would be low journal-writing production. A teacher might ask, “How can modeling encourage more writing?” and “What might stimulate more writing?” A teacher who chooses this as a focus might discover when reviewing the literature that a word wall could help. She then asks, “How could interactive word walls improve the journal writing of my kindergarten students?” and “With what age groups have word walls been effective?” In some cases, the questions are essentially hypotheses that can be tested through action research. In other cases, they are purely exploratory and geared toward problem clarification. While the examples provided here are at a teacher level, your questions need to be those that a school leader might ask. Your questions might address how to help teachers become more effective, or they might be focused on a school-wide problem (issue, concern, problem, need).
Compose 1-3 research questions that are explicit and open-ended (not yes or no questions). What questions should you ask to help resolve the problem (issue, concern, problem, need)?
Part 2: Detailed Directions: Literature Review
Note: Begin the Literature Review in Module 1, and complete it in Module 2.
The purpose of a literature review is to know what others have discovered about your topic before you begin your own investigation. A literature review grounds your study in what is known about a subject and establishes a foundation for the research question(s) you will seek to answer. Relevant, peer-reviewed articles will help you better understand the problem (issue, concern, problem, need) and may introduce either data collection techniques you may want to use or intervention ideas you may want to incorporate into an action plan. You will discover information that will help you compile a promising action research project.
conduct your search of the literature for three professional, peer-reviewed articles related to your concern, problem statement, and specific question(s). Good, relevant articles will help you to begin answering your questions and solving your problem. Only one is expected in Module 1, and you will complete your literature review in Module 2.
Tutorials for conducting research are available: Digital Learning Connections Resources and Tips.
In your literature search, place a check in the box for “peer reviewed,” so you are sure to use only peer-reviewed studies.
Describe each article or study using at least two well-developed paragraphs, and include information about the purpose, problem statement, research questions, theory, methodology, results, and conclusions.
Cite your sources using APA style, and reference the article in an APA-formatted references list at the end of your paper. Place titles in your references list only, not in the body of your paragraphs.
Upload your action research paper, including your working literature review, as one document.
Resource: Thinking It Through – Leading Change
Before you begin work on your action research project, read this “Leading Change” scenario. The goal of the scenario is to help you better understand the process of action research and help you determine a problem and question for your action research.
I am the assistant principal at my school, and I have been concerned that the majority of the students in Ms. Romero’s class did not pass the language arts portion of the spring state exam, while the students in Ms. Garcia’s class had a 95% pass rate. This question keeps gnawing at me: What could be contributing to the higher state exam pass rate in Ms. Garcia’s classroom than Ms. Romero’s?
To answer the question, I decide to engage in individual action research that has a descriptive purpose. I just want to describe the situation…to answer my question. I conduct background research and find that research confirms my observations. Ms. Romero isn’t using formative assessments while Ms. Garcia is using formative assessments and a pacing guide. Research has shown that utilizing pacing guides ensures that all required standards and indicators are covered before the spring state exam. Additionally, formative assessments help teachers use data to drive their instruction.
After collecting background data from the literature, I map out a data collection plan to answer the research question about formative assessments and pacing guides. I know that I have to complete this phase of my research in four weeks, so I decide to collect qualitative data from three sources: surveying teachers to find out who is utilizing formative assessments and pacing guides, engaging with teachers who are using formative assessments to obtain information on how it drives their instruction, and interviewing teachers who are using pacing guides to determine how that has affected their approach to planning.
Note: In these examples the researcher is going to collect new data. For the purposes of this course, you are only examining existing data.
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