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What is Action Research

What is Action Research

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Published by rieatagi1970

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Published by: rieatagi1970 on Dec 04, 2008
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08/18/2010

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What is Action Research?Action research is a process of deep inquiry into one's practices inservice of moving towards an envisioned future aligned with values.Action Research is the systematic, reflective study of one's actionsand the effects of these actions in a workplace context. As such, itinvolves deep inquiry into one's professional action. The researchersexamine their work and look for opportunities to improve. Asdesigners and stakeholders, they work with others to propose a newcourse of action to help their community improve its work practices.As researchers, they seek evidence from multiple sources to helpthem analyze reactions to the action taken. They recognize theirown view as subjective and seek to develop their understanding of the events from multiple perspectives. The researcher uses datacollected to characterize the forces in ways that can be shared withpractitioners. This leads to a reflective phase in which the designerformulates new plans for action during the next cycle. ActionResearch is a way of learning from and through one's practice byworking through a set of reflective stages that helps a persondevelop a form of "adaptive" expertise. Over time, actionresearchers develop a deep understanding of how forces interact tocreate series of complex patterns. Since the forces are alwayschanging, action research is a process of living one's theory intopractice.
 
The researchers both act and seek to learn from the actions taken.The subject of action research is the actions taken, the change, andthe theory of change that is held by the persons enacting thechange. While the design of action research can originate with anindividual, social actions taken without the collaborativeparticipation of others are often less effective. To be successful, theaction researchers have to plan in such a way as to draw an everwidening group of stakeholders into the arena of action. The goal isto work towards a better understanding of their situation in order toaffect a positive personal and social change.This form of research then is an iterative, cyclical process of reflecting on practice, taking an action, reflecting, and takingfurther action. Therefore, the research takes shape as it is beingperformed. Better understanding from each cycle points the way toimproved actions.
Goals of Action Research include:
The improvement of practice through continual learning andprogressive problem solving;
A deep understanding of practice and the development of awell specified theory of action;
An improvement in the community in which your practice isembedded through participatory research.Action research as a method is scientific in that it changessomething and observes the effects through a systematic process of examining the evidence. The results of this type of research arepractical, relevant, and can inform theory. Action Research isdifferent than other forms of research as there is less concern foruniversality of the finding and more value placed on the relevanceof the findings to the researcher and the local collaborators. Criticalreflection is at the heart of Action Research and when this reflectionis based on careful examination of evidence from multipleperspectives, it can provide an effective strategy for improving theorganization's ways of working and the whole organizationalclimate. It can be the process through which an organization learns.
Developing Action Research Questions: A Guide toProgressive Inquiry 
The questions a researcher asks can guide their process. A goodquestion will inspire one to look closely and collect evidence that willhelp find possible answers.What are good examples of action research questions? What arequestions that are less likely to promote the process of inquiry that
 
is at the heart of action research? The best question is the one thatwill lead you to look at your practice deeply and engage in cycles of continuous learning from your everyday practice of your craft.These questions come from a desire to have to have practice alignwith values and beliefs. Exploring these questions helps theresearcher to be progressively more effective in reaching theirpersonal goals and developing professional expertise.Good questions often arise from visions of improved practice andemerging theories about the change that will move the researchercloser to the ideal state of working practices. When stated in anif/then format, they can take the shape of a research hypothesis. If I [insert the action to be taken], how will it affect [describe one ormore possible consequences of the action]? We will look at twoexamples, one from education and one from a business setting.
Development of Action Research Questions in an EducationalContext
Suppose the researcher is worried about designing the learningcontext to meet the needs of students who are not currently doingwell in the classroom. The general question might be:How can I personalize instruction to match the diverse needs of mystudents?This forms a good overall goal which can then lead to a number of possible cycles of action research, each with a separate question.Consider this question:
If I listen to students, will I have better understanding of them? 
This question suggests an action and possible outcome but is vaguein both in the description of the action and in the possible outcome.Now consider:
If I set up community circle time to listen to students describe their learning experiences in my classroom, in what ways, if any, will theinformation about their learning processes help me redesign theway I teach? 
Now it is clear what the researcher intends to do and what apossible outcome might be. In listening to students, the researchermight discover information that will lead directly to an experimentin instructional design or might refocus the overall goal to one thatwas not apparent when the researcher started the quest.

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