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4.

Action research: Concepts and model


Definition and concepts
The characteristics of action research
The importance of action research

Models of action research


- Stephen Kemmiss model
- John Elliotts model
- Dave Ebbutts model
- Jack Whiteheads model
- Jean McNiffs model
- Kurt Lewins model

Definition
and
concepts
systematic study that combines action and

Ebbutt (1985:156) regards action research as a

reflection with the intention of improving


practice.
Cohen and Manion (1994:186) define it as a
small-scale intervention in the real world and a
close examination of the effects of such an
intervention.
Kemmis and McTaggart(1992:10) argue that to
do action research is to plan, act, observe
and reflect more carefully, more
systematically, and more rigorously than one
usually does in everyday life.

Action research combines diagnosis, action

and reflection (McNiff


2002:15), focusing on
Definition
and concepts

practical issues that have been identified by


participants and which are somehow both
problematic yet capable of being changed
(Elliott, 1978:355-6).
McNiff(2002:6) places self-reflection at the
heart of action research.
Zuber-Skerritt(1996b:83) suggests that the
aims of any action research project or program
are to bring about practical improvement,
innovation, change or development of
social practice and the practitioners
better understanding of their practices.

Definition and concepts


Action research is a form of

investigation designed for use by


teachers to attempt to solve
problems and improve professional
practices in their own classrooms. It
involves systematic observations
and data collection which can be
then used by the practitionerresearcher in reflection, decisionmaking and the development of
more effective classroom
strategies. - Parsons and Brown (2002)

Definition and concepts

Action Research is a process

of systematic inquiry into a


self-identified teaching or
learning problem to better
understand its complex
dynamics and to develop
strategies geared towards
the problems improvement.
(Hamilton 1997, 3)

Definition and concepts

Action research is a natural part of

teaching. Teachers are continually


observing students, collecting data and
changing practices to improve student
learning and the classroom and school
environment. Action research provides a
framework that guides the energies of
teachers toward a better understanding
of why, when, and how students
become better learners. - A. Christine Miller
(2007)

Definition and concepts

Kemmis and McTaggart(1988) in their all-

encompassing definition:

Action research is a form of collective

self-reflective enquiry undertaken by


participants in social situations in order
to improve the rationality and justice of
the own social or educational
practices, as well as their
understanding of these practices and
the situations in which these practices
are carried out

Definition and concepts

Elliott (1991a) defined action research as a process through


which teachers
Collaborate in evaluating their practice jointly
Raise awareness of their personal theory
articulate a shared conception of values
Try out new strategies to render the values expressed in
their practice more consistent with the educational
values they espouse
Record their work in a form that is readily available to and
understandable by other teachers and thus
develop a shared theory of teaching by researching
practice
Goh LH(2012) A Practical guide to writing your action
research

The characteristics of action


enquiry
and action carried out by practitioners in
research

It is a dynamic and systematic process of self-

the line of work


The researcher is involved in an immediate and
direct way
The project is undertaken collaboratively by the
participants in the situation, it involves those
responsible for action in improving it
The action proceeds through a spiral of cycles of
planning, acting, observing, reflecting and
evaluating
It raises awareness and understanding of your
practice, leading to change and improvement
through practical action

The characteristics of action


1.A practical focus
research
2.The educator-researchers
own practices
3.Collaboration
4.A dynamic process
5.A plan of action
6.Sharing research

The characteristics of action


1. A practical focus
research
- the aim of AR is to address an
actual problem in an educational
setting
-AR study practical issues that will
have immediate benefits for
education
-to solve an immediate problem

The
characteristics
of
action
2. The educator-researchers own
research
practices
-ARers engage in participatory or selfreflective research in which they turn the
lens on their own educational classroom,
school or practices.
- as they study their own situation- reflect on
what they have learned-a form of selfdevelopment- as well as improve their
educational practices

The
characteristics
of
action
3. Collaboration
research
Action Researchers collaborate with others,
often coparticipants in the research.
-it involves establishing acceptable and
cooperative relationships, communicating in
a manner that is sincere and appropriate,
and including all individuals, groups and
issues.
- individuals may review results of findings
with the researcher, help collect data or
assist in the presentation of final report.

The
characteristics
of
action
4. A dynamic process
research
-Researcher spirals back and forth between
reflection about a problem, data collection,
trying a solution and back to reflection
5. A Plan of Action
- Researcher formulates an action plan in
response to the problem.
-The plan may be presenting the data to
important stakeholders, implementing an
ongoing research agenda to explore new
practices.
- may be a formal written plan, or an informal
discussion about how to proceed.

The
characteristics
of
action
6. Sharing research
research
-Action researchers often share reports of
their research to educators who can then
immediately use the results- individuals who
can promote change or enact plans within
their classroom or building.
-online journals, web-sites and discussion
blogs provide opportunities for action
researchers to publicize their studies.
Creswell, J.W. (2014) Educational Research: Planning,
Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and
Qualitative Research pg.618

ACTION RESEARCH IS . . .
critical (and self-critical) collaborative inquiry by
reflective practitioners being
accountable and making results of their enquiry

public
self-evaluating their practice and engaged in
participatory problem-solving and continuing
professional development.
Zuber-skerritt (1996b:85)

The
importance
of
action
What kinds of benefits to their teaching have teachers
who have carried out AR found?
research

Heather Denny is a teacher researcher


voices
in NZ.
She worked with her other
colleagues in her teaching centre on a
collaborative AR project that focused on new ways
of teaching spoken discourse to adult learners.
After working with them Heather surveyed 4 of the
teachers in her research group. Heather says:
Group members reported major benefits for both
teaching and research skills development in this
type of group AR activity. For teachers there was
faster
Classroom

..professional development, through basing

teacher changes and decisions not only on


reflection but also on reliable data collection and
analysis. There was also more effective and
focused teaching materials development, some
of it very innovative and the generation and
propagation of relevant and useful theory.
Research skills were learned in this project
through individuals learning by doing and also
through the sharing of expertise and experience.
The voluntary nature of group membership was
also an asset, as was the fact that members of
the group all saw the area of the focus as being
of interest in their teaching.

Many teachers felt keenly a lack


of research experience. However this
was not an insuperable barrier as one
of the most inexperienced had with
support managed to carry a project
to presentation state after 20 months
in the group.
(source: Denny, 2005, p.8 in Burns, A.
(2010)Doing Action Research in English
Language Teaching)

Importance of AR in teacher
professional
development?

Action research is first person research


designed to empower teachers to selfeducate, test personal theories and
expand teaching knowledge in the
classroom (Craig 2009; Reason & Bradbury
2006; Sagor 2005; Schoen 2007; Pattison 1999)
By doing action research English teachers are
given a powerful means to build, test and
revise personal theories about pedagogy
in the classroom (Craig 2009; Coghlan &
Brannick 2009; Schoen 2007; Tomal 2003).

Importance of AR in teacher
professional development?
Through action experimentation

teachers grow professionally by


enhancing critical reflection,
decision making, discernment all of
which strengthen their ability to selfevaluate and improve teaching
practice (Craig 2009; Coghlan & Brannick
2009; Mertler 2006; Tomal 2003).

The
importance
of
action
AR allows us to build records of our
improvements: (a) records of our changing
research

activities and practices


(b) records of the changes in the language and
discourse in which we describe, explain and
justify our practices
AR allows us to give a reasoned justification of
our educational work to others because we can
show how the evidence we have gathered and
the critical reflection we have done have helped
us to create a developed, tested and critically
examined rationale for what we are doing

Advantages
of
action
1. AR can be done by almost any professional, in
any type of school, at any grade, to
research
investigate any kind of problem.
2. AR can improve educational practices.
3. When teachers design and carry out own AR,

they can develop more effective ways to


practise their craft.
4. AR can help teachers identify problems and
issues systematically.
5. AR can build up a small community of
research-oriented individuals within school.
(Fraenkel, pg 596)

1. AR involves teachers in evaluating and reflecting on

Summary:
essential
features
of
their teaching with
the aim of bringing
about continuing
changes and improvements in practice.
AR

2. It is small-scale, contextualised and local in

character, as the participants identify and investigate


teaching-learning issues within a specific social
situation, the school or classroom
3. It is participatory and inclusive, as it gives
communities of participants the opportunity to
investigate issues of immediate concern
collaboratively within their own social situation
4. Changes in practice is based on collecting and analysing

data systematically
5. Based on democratic principles: ownership for changes in
curr practice_ teachers and learners who conduct research

KEMMIS and MCTAGGART (1988)


PLANNING
Identify a problem or issue
Develop a plan of action to
bring improvement in specific
area of researh context
Consider
(i) what kind of investigation
is possible within the realities
and constraints of your
teaching situation
(ii)what potential
improvements you think are
possible
Tan Poh Keun

KEMMIS and MCTAGGART (1988)


ACTION
the plan is a carefully
considered one which involves
some deliberate intervention
into your teaching situation
that you put into action over
an agreed period of time.
The interventions are
critically informed as you
question your assumptions
about the current situation
and plan new and alternative
ways of doing things.
Tan Poh Keun

KEMMIS and MCTAGGART (1988)


OBSERVATION
Observe systematically
the effects of the action
and documenting the
context, actions and
opinions of those involved.
It is a data collection
phase where you use openeyed and open-minded
tools to collect information
about what is happening.

Tan Poh Keun

Cyclical AR model based on KEMMIS & McTAGGART


(1988)
REFLECTION
.You

Tan Poh Keun

reflect on, evaluate and


describe the effects of the action in
order to make sense of what has
happened and to understand the
issue you have explored more
clearly.
You may decide to do further
cycles of AR to improve the
situation even more, or to share
the storyor your research with
others as part of your ongoing
professional development.

JOHN ELLIOT (1988)


Cycle 1
General Plan
Monitoring the
Implementation and effects
Reconnaissance (explain
any failure to implement
and its effects)

Cycle 2
Revise General Plan
Monitoring the
implementation and effects
Reconnaissance (explain
any failure to implement and
its effects)
Tan Poh Keun

Initially an exploratory stance is adopted, where an

understanding
of a problem
is developed: and
plans
Models
of action
research
John
are made for some form of interventionary strategy.
Elliott
s model & General Plan)
(The Reconnaissance

Then the intervention is carried out . (The Action in

Action Research)
During and around the time of the intervention,
pertinent observations are collected in various forms.
(Monitoring the implementation by Observation.
)
The new interventional strategies are carried out, and
the cyclic process repeats, continuing until a sufficient
understanding of (or implement able solution for) the
problem is achieved (Reflection and Revision)


Elliott's
Models
of model
actionemphasizes
research :constant
John

evolution
and
redefinition
of
the
Elliott s model
original goal through a series of
reconnaissances (fact finding and
analysis) recurring every cycle.-within
each stage of the action research.
This design permits much greater flexibility, and

seeks to "...recapture some of the 'messiness'


which the Kemmis version tends to gloss [over] "
(Hopkins, 1985).

(1985)

Begins with general idea


Review of related literature insight into area of focus
Overall plan
Action 1
Monitoring and reconnaissance
Action 2
Tan
Process
repeats for further cycles
Poh Keun

Action Research...is the


Models of action research : Dave

systematic
study of attempts to
Ebbutts
model

improve educational practise


by groups of participants by
means of their own practical
actions and by means of their
own reflection upon the
effects of those actions.
- Ebbutt (cited in Hopkins, 1985)

Here is a modified version of Jacks action plan. On

What issue/concern/problem
am :I interested
in
Models
of action research
Jack

researching?
Whiteheads
model

Why do I want to research this issue?


What kind of evidence can I gather to show why I

am interested in this issue?


What can I do? What will I do?
What kind of evidence can I gather to show that I
am having an influence?
How can I explain that influence?
How can I ensure that any judgements I might
make are reasonably fair and accurate?
How will I change my practice in light of my
evaluation?

Jean McNiffs model (1988)


Review your current practice
Identify an aspect that you wish to improve
Imagine a way forward in this
Try it out
Monitor and reflect on what happens
Modify the plan in the light of what has been

found, what has happened, and continue;


Evaluate the modified action
Continue until you are satisfied with that
aspect of your work (e.g. repeat the cycle)

KURT LEWIN (1946)


General idea of
improvement or change
Preliminary
reconnaissance
Observing/
Evaluating
of results
of action

Acting
Taking First Action
step
Reflecting
Modify
original
plan/idea

Planning

Taking Second
Step of Action

Lewin described action research as

Models of action research :Kurt


proceeding in a spiral of steps, each of
Lewins
which ismodel
composed of planning, action
and evaluation of the result of the action.
In practice the process begins with a
general idea that some kind of
improvement or change is desirable.
The group decides to work together on a
thematic concern, they decide on a
general plan of action and do a
preliminary reconnaissance.

Breaking the general plan down into achievable

Models
of action
research
:Kurt
steps the action
researchers
still on the first
action
step, a change in strategy which aims not only at
Lewins
model
improvement, but at a greater understanding about
what will be possible to achieve later as well.
Before taking this first step, the action research
group becomes more circumspect and devises a
way of monitoring the effects of the first
action step, the circumstances in which it occurs
and what the strategy begins to look like in practice.
Group action and the action of individual members

of the group is subjected to critical reflection.

The cyclic nature of the Lewinian approach

Models
research
:Kurt
recognisesof
theaction
need for action
plans to be
flexible
and responsive.
Lewins
model
It recognises that, given the complexity of social

situations, in practice it is never possible to


anticipate everything that needs to be done.
Lewins deliberate overlapping of action and
reflection was designed to allow changes in
plans for action as the people involved learned
from their own experience.
Put simply action research is the way groups of
people can organize the conditions under which they
can learn from their own experience and make
this experience accessible to others

Example of AR projects
A young teacher, concerned by the

disciplinary problems she experienced


with a group of at risk boys in her
classroom, engaged in an AR process
that revealed to her a very different
understanding of these children. The
knowledge she gained changed her view
of the problems she was experiencing,
leading to dramatic changes in the way
she approached her teaching.

Examples of AR projects
You have identified an area in

your teaching that you believe


can be improved(based on data
from your students). You decide
to investigate the impact of your
intervention and to monitor if it
makes a difference

Examples of AR projects
Given a schoolwide reading comprehension

focus, you have decided to monitor the


effectiveness of a new reading curriculum
and teaching strategies by videotaping a
reading lesson(once per month),
administering reading comprehension
probes(once per week) interviewing
children in your classroom(once per term)
and administering statewide assessment
tests(at the end of the school year)

Possibilities
for AR
Increasing learner autonomy
Integrating language skills
Focusing on language form
Understanding student motivation
Developing writing skills
Promoting group work
Making classrooms more communicative
Trying out new materials
Finding new ways to do assessment
Integrating technology into class activities

Tutorial task
In groups, select any one of the

models of action research and use


PMI tool (Plus, Minus and
Interesting) on the model. Present
group discussion.
Prepare a statement on the aspect
and an action research proposal on
how you will conduct the research.

Discussion

Based on an assigned model, and problem

identified, map out the procedures/steps to


find a solution to the problem.
- Stephen Kemmiss model
- John Elliotts model
- Dave Ebbutts model
- Jack Whiteheads model
- Jean McNiffs model
- Kurt Lewins model

References
Creswell, J.W. (2014) Educational Research:
Planning, Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative
and Qualitative Research. 4th Edition. Pearson
Education Limited
Fraenkel, J.R., Wallen,N.E. and Hyun, H.H. (2012)
How to Design and Evaluate Research in
Education. 8th Edition. McGraw-Hill Education,
New York
Cohen,L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2011)
Research Methods in Education. 7 th edition.
Routledge, New York
Burns,A. (2010) Doing Action Research in English
Language Teaching Routledge, New York and
London