What is Action Research?

(taken from the PDF of Alberta Guide to Action Research for Teachers)
Action research is a strategy teachers can use to investigate a problem or area of interest specific to their professional context. It provides the structure to engage in a planned, systematic and documented process of professional growth. As an educator, you are faced daily with challenges as you work to provide an effective learning environment for all the students in your classroom or school. These challenges surface in your reflections as questions that you attempt to answer to improve your professional practice.

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 problem’s improvement.

My powerpoint presentation to the schools on action research (takes you to another site - use the back arrow to return here)

Action research is a valuable form of inquiry for educators because...
  • practical improvements are the focus.
  • teachers, administrators, teacher assistants, students and parents can all be involved in meaningful ways.
  • all participants can contribute to and benefit from the process.
  • meaning is constructed using participants’ multiple realities in the situation.
  • there are not always right or wrong answers; rather, there are possible solutions based on multiple view points.
  • participants look critically at specific problems and act as self-critical change agents.

Developing a Research Question

Where do research questions come from? Simply put, action research questions originate in a teacher’s reflections. Everyday there are situations that cause you to reflect later.

Strategies you can use to develop a research question

1. Keep a journal for at least one week, preferably two
  • Set aside 10 minutes to write at the end of each day.
  • At the end of two weeks, read your journal, looking for significant ideas and themes.
  • Brainstorm a list of things that you would like to investigate.
  • Review the list and write a first draft of your question.
  • Write a paragraph of supporting rationale for your question.
  • Reflect on your question

2. Sentence Stems
Focus on your classroom or role in the school and complete the
following sentence stems.
  • One thing I would like to change is...
  • My practice could be improved by...
  • The students I work with need...
  • I would like to know...
  • I wonder why...
  • The most important thing about teaching is...
  • The best learning environment for students is...
  • I need to learn how to...
  • My students would do better if...

Points to consider in developing a good question
  • Studying this question will enhance my professional practice.
  • This question will be of value to my classroom, school and/or colleagues.
  • The climate of my classroom and school will be supportive of this question.
  • The question focuses on an important issue.
  • The question can be studied in the time available.
  • I can access literature or other resources that will provide background information.
  • The data needed to answer this question is accessible.
  • The question is of personal interest to me.

Steps of Action Research

1 ➢ Define the Focus or Problem
  • Ask the right questions.
  • Reflection begins.
2 ➢ Collect Information
  • Read the literature, consult colleagues, talk to experts.
  • Reflection continues.
3 ➢ Make Sense of the Information
  • What is relevant?
  • What is doable?
  • What can be modified and adapted to suit the circumstances?
4 ➢ Share the Information (if all in syndicate are engaged in action research)
  • Share your preliminary conclusions with your team.
  • Discuss projects to help refine ideas.
5 ➢ Plan Action
  • Develop a plan of action.
  • Share individual intentions with members of the team.
  • Build personal commitment and group support.
6 ➢ Take Action
  • Start putting your plan into effect.
  • Begin to think about what is happening and why.
  • Reflection in action and on action will make your efforts more purposeful.
7 ➢ Collect Information
  • Let your students see you as a learner.
  • Gather data to answer your research question and document carefully.
  • Meet regularly with your team to share your experiences and re-focus as necessary.
8 ➢ Analyze
  • Discuss with your team to make sense of what’s happening and why.
  • Compare the pre- and post-intervention data.
9 ➢ Assess Your Achievements
  • Think about evidence-based practice.
  • Your conclusions are supported by the data collected.
10 ➢Publish
  • Commit yourself to making conclusions about the impact of your efforts.
  • Share these conclusions with your team and other educators.
  • Be prepared to disseminate your report beyond your group and beyond the school.
11 ➢Future Action
  • Celebrate. Relax. Reflect.
  • Take time to consolidate your learning and your gains before you start something new.

Writing the Report

Template for Action Research Reports

Online tools for sharing powerpoint presentations

Privacy Considerations

Teachers must consider the Privacy Act as they develop their action research project plans. Most classroom-based action research projects will involve collecting personal information about students, including their demographic and achievement data. Parents must give prior approval for this type of information to be collected and, if necessary, reported or published. The following questions can serve as a guide for writing a letter to seek parental permission:

  • Why are you collecting the information?
  • What information will be collected?
  • How will the information be used?
  • Who will be the audience for the information?

Parents must also give prior permission for teachers to use photographs or video tape students involved in the action research project. Use the previous guiding questions to write a letter of permission and include reassurance that neither the child’s identity nor any personal information will be used in conjunction with the photograph.