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Action Research in Education Cheat Sheet by

research     methodology     action     lewin


“Within all the defini­tions of action research, there are four basic themes: empowe­rment of partic­ipants, collab­oration through partic­ipa­tion, acquis­ition of knowledge, and social change” (Ferrance, 2000, p15). There are two different focuses in Action Research, one in the education industry and another in the social welfare sector (Smith, 1996). I will focus on the Action Research in the education sector.

"The primary purpose of action research is to produce practical knowledge that is useful to people in the everyday conduct of their lives" (Reason, Bradbury, 2006, p2). Action Research (AR) focuses on the realistic aspects and issues of educat­ional profes­sionals for planned and thoughtful explor­ation and invest­igation into classroom teaching and lessons. Action Research makes all of the members (the teacher, principal, students, and any other involved) feel powerful, because everyone is involved in changing and advancing the educat­ional problem or issue. Therefore, all of the members are involved in the research process (Hopkins, 1993). Action Research partic­ularly focuses on an organized examin­ation completed by the teacher with the purpose that the research will educate and change her or his teaching procedures or styles in the future. The research is very specific to the teacher’s school enviro­nment. The topic researched will be very specific for each profes­sional (Ferrance, 2000)

Brief History

Kurt Lewin, a United States researcher in the 1940’s, is the person credited for coining the term “Action Research” (Ferrance, 2000). Here is a diagram of Lewin's spiral steps for Action Research, which is not linear:
1. Identify general idea
2. Fact Finding
3. Planning
4. Take First Action Steps
5. Evaluate
6. Alter Plan
7. Take Second Steps

At Teachers College at Columbia Univer­sity, Stephen Corey was the first to use Action Research . He believed Action Research would allow teachers to gather inform­ation and create change and apply the research. In the 1950’s there was a decline in Action Research because it was deemed unscie­ntific (Ferrance, 2000). Also there was a continued decline in the 1960’s due to radical political activism, and people were questi­oning who was conducting the research (Smith, 1996). Action Research is now used a lot in the education industry for profes­sional develo­pment and school reform (Ferrance, 2000). The concept of action research has also taken hold in other parts of the world, including in China, Africa and South America. It has been used for peacem­aking efforts in the Middle East.

Image from (Ferrance, 2000, p9)

The Process of CAR in Education

According to Ferrance (2000, p8), “Implicit in the term action research is the idea that teachers will begin a cycle of posing questions, gathering data, reflec­tion, and deciding on a course of action.”

There are six steps to the Action Research Cycle:
1. Recogn­izing and establ­ishing the problem.
The teacher needs to make sure that he or she can manipulate the problem.

2. Gathering and grouping inform­ation
The teacher must be sure to use several sources of inform­ation and a gathering method that is relevant to the problem.

3. Analysis and evaluation of inform­ation
Identify and analyze major themes of the data.

4. Change teaching practice based on the analysis of the inform­ation
Make a plan for the change, but only change one component.

While the one change is occurring, continue to document observ­ations and inform­ation.

5. Reflec­tion
Determine if improv­ement occurred or not, and does the data support the findings.

6. Next Steps (then the cycle starts all over again)
Write down questions as a result of the Action Research and plan the next actions (Ferrance, 2000).

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