For each chapter in Action Research: Teachers as Researchers in the Classroom, Third Edition, links to supplemental journal articles have been provided. The inclusion of these articles as supplemental assignments is intended to extend and strengthen students’ understanding of conceptual basis, background, and procedures for conducting action research. For each article, students should be prepared to respond to the following questions:
- What have you learned about action research that you did not know prior to reading this article?
- In what ways has this article made you think differently about action research?
- Are there aspects, or specific points, made by the author(s) with which you strongly agree? Describe those aspects with which you agree.
- Are there aspects, or specific points, made by the author(s) with which you strongly disagree? Describe your basic disagreements.
- Why do you believe that this article is important to the body of literature on action research? How does it contribute to knowledge about action research?
If the particular article is a write-up of an empirical action research study (this is noted after the citation), students should also be prepared to respond to the following additional questions:
- What is the problem or topic, and what are the research questions, that guide this action research study?
- What procedures were used to conduct the study? Summarize the research design, data collection, and data analysis for this study.
- Do you believe that the authors have done an adequate, thorough job of answering their original research questions? Why or why not?
- What is the nature of the action plan(s) developed by the authors? Do they describe plans for a next cycle of action research? If so, what are their plans?
- What aspects of this study truly make it an action research study? In other words, discuss why this is a good example of action research.
Chapter 1. Introduction to Action Research
Brydon-Miller, M., Greenwood, D., & Maguire, P. (2003). Why action research? Action Research, 1(1), 9-28.
Members of the editorial board of Action Research responded to the question, ‘Why action research?’ Based on their responses and the authors’ own experiences as action researchers, this article examines common themes and commitments among action researchers as well as exploring areas of disagreement and important avenues for future exploration. We also use this opportunity to welcome readers of this new journal and to introduce them to members of the editorial board.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2010, Jan/Feb). Teacher education and the American future. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 35-47.
For teacher education, this is perhaps the best of times and the worst of times. It may be the best of times because so much hard work has been done by many teacher educators over the past two decades to develop more successful program models and because voters have just elected a president of the United States who has a strong commitment to the improvement of teaching. It may be the worst of times because there are so many forces in the environment that conspire to undermine these efforts. In this article, the author discusses the U.S. context for teacher education, the power of teacher preparation for transforming teaching and learning, and the current challenges for this enterprise in the United States.
Melrose, M. J. (2001). Maximizing the rigor of action research: Why would you want to? How could you? Field Methods, 13, 160-180.
Since the late 1980s, much has been written about the meaning of action research (AR), and the basic cycle of planning, action, observation, and reflection has been used to improve practice in many fields of human endeavor, including education and management. This article examines the meanings of rigor when the term is applied to
AR and discusses some of the strategies recommended to improve rigor. Focusing questions for the article include the following: What is AR? Who does it, with whom, and for what purposes? Why and how can one make the framework/method itself more rigorous? How can one make data interpretation more rigorous? What about theory building? What about the dilemma of group involvement with rigor for the Ph.D. student and thesis writer? The author’s experiences in achieving an AR Ph.D., examining AR theses, and generating and using a daisy model of AR with several groups of staff are used.
Chapter 2. Overview of the Action Research Process
Crocco, M., Faithfull, B., & Schwartz, S. (2003). Inquiring minds want to know: Action research at a New York City professional development school. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(1), 19-30.
This article describes a professional development school (PDS) relationship between Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Beacon School in New York City. In examining this case of an urban high school with a diverse student population working with a college of education, the authors add to the literature on PDS partnerships, which has dealt mostly with elementary school partnerships with colleges of education. The authors focus on the action research projects conducted by teaching interns at Beacon who are also master’s students in secondary education programs, chiefly social studies and English, at Teachers College. The authors analyze the impact of this collaboration on participants and institutions, while acknowledging the areas of strain in maintaining the professional development relationship over time.
Glanz, J. (2005). Action research as instructional supervision: Suggestions for principals. NASSP Bulletin, 89, 17-27.
Supervision based on collaboration, participative decision making, and reflective practice is the hallmark of a viable school improvement program that is designed to promote teaching and learning. Action research has gradually emerged as an important form of instructional supervision to engage teachers in reflective practice about their teaching and to examine actors that aim to promote student achievement. This article examines supervision as it has evolved and moved toward action research advocacy and presents two case studies that show how action research improves teaching and learning. Practical guidelines for implementing action research as instructional improvement are provided for principals.
Judah, M., & Richardson, G. (2008). Between a rock and a (very) hard place: The ambiguous promise of action research in the context of state mandated teacher professional development. Action Research, 4(1), 65-80.
Conversations with teachers and professional development leaders enable us, as researchers, to highlight the ambiguous promise of action research within the context of mandated teacher professional development in the province of Alberta, Canada. From this departure, we investigate how educators believe action research projects influence their professional practices and we explore the question of the validity of using state-mandated action research projects as a means of bringing about authentic teacher professional development. Using conversations, we recount the experiences of three teachers who took part in two separate action research projects. As the conversations we present underscore, many teachers involved in state-mandated school-based projects found themselves caught between competing discourses of personal empowerment and individual autonomy on the one hand and externally driven measures of accountability and excellence on the other. In this complex and ambiguous location and within the context of their involvement in action research projects, the three teachers in this study negotiated their own understandings of professional development.
Drummond, J. S. & Themessl-Huber, M. (2007). The cyclical process of action research: The contribution of Gilles Deleuze. Action Research, 5, 430-448.
Action Research is normally described as both a cyclical process and a participatory (democratic/egalitarian) undertaking. This article does not seek to contest the idiosyncrasies and pragmatics of the cyclical process involved in action research. Rather,
it seeks to enrich it by developing further the idea of action research as a process that engages with problems and learning in the act of creating change. To do this we draw primarily on aspects of the work of the French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze. Deleuze has argued that all learning is essentially a direct apprentice-type engagement with the problematic nature of the material or project under consideration. We argue that an
explication of what Deleuze means by this can augment our understanding of the contingencies involved in both the participatory and cyclical dimensions of action research. To give explanatory substance to Deleuze’s potential contribution to action research, we use illustrative moments based on a hypothetical scenario of the development of a large piece of waste ground into a community gardening project. We seek to connect aspects of Deleuzian philosophy to the cyclical process of action research to show the dynamic relationship between action researchers and an action research project. Our argument is that in doing this, an understanding of the variables involved
in the cyclical process of action research may be enhanced.
Hussein, J. W. (2008). An existential approach to engaging adult learners in the process of legitimizing and constructing meanings from their narrative knowledge. Action Research, 6, 391-420. Empirical action research study.
The aim of this study is two-fold. One is evaluating the action research process and how the existential situations of the inquiry influence the process of intervention. The second is generating and analysing the thematic structure of the learners’ reconstructions
of their lived experiences. The study highlighted that through challenging, one can convince learners to legitimate their narrative knowledge through sharing their personal narratives and to understand how to reach their existential reality. It is evident from the steps that action research can help a practitioner make learners see and believe that their narrative knowledge is valuable and can serve as input for critical reflection. The other finding is that learners may not need advanced language to give expressions to their lived experience. Finally, the article concludes with the researcher’s emotional dissonance
regarding where an inquirer into the lived experiences of his/her research participants should stand.
Chapter 3. Planning for Action Research
Howes, A. (2001). School level action research: Creating critical space in school communities. Improving Schools, 4(2), 43-48.
The article explores an increasingly popular form of University support for school development: collaborative action research. Research into the development of inclusive practices in schools is a social process: it is impossible to understand the process without thinking carefully about the relationship between the researcher and the staff of the school. My aim here is to make connections between the development of inclusive practices and features of the partnership between university and school staff, in order to clarify the meaning and value of collaborative action research in this context.
Price, J., & Valli, L. (2005). Preservice teachers becoming agents of change: Pedagogical implications for action research. Journal of Teacher Education, 56(1), 57-72.
This article examines the construction and experience of change agency within action research courses in preservice teacher education. Four preservice teachers’ experiences of action research are analyzed, and tensions and challenges teacher educators and preservice teachers face as they attend to change processes in learning to teach are explored. This analysis suggests five central tensions in the process and pedagogy of action research: individual and institutional change, action and understanding, support and challenge, passion and reason, and regulation and emancipation. Rather than selecting one side of a tension over another, the authors argue that teacher educators need to work with tensions to develop understandings of change in relation to biography, teaching, and context. The authors argue that such contradictory and complex dimensions provide a useful frame for a pedagogy of action research. They are integral to the process of helping teacher candidates develop conceptions of teaching that embody change agency.
Souto-Manning, M. (2009). Negotiating culturally responsive pedagogy through multicultural children’s literature: Towards critical democratic literacy practices in a first grade classroom. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 9(1), 50-74.
In this article, I present the description of the learning and social action that unfolded through critical literacy events in my first grade classroom. Resulting from teacher action research, this critical conscientization process underscores how multicultural children's literature served as enabler of culturally responsive pedagogy. Through the analysis of representative literacy events, I highlight how first grade students problematized the racially and socioeconomically segregated nature of pull-out educational programs in an American school--a clear and complex institutional issue that affected society, schooling, and the students' lives. By sharing this, I hope to draw attention to the possibilities of employing children's literature for the benefit of better serving the educational needs of all children. (Contains 1 note.)
Chapter 4. Developing a Research Plan
Brydon-Miller, M., & Greenwood, D. (2006). A re-examination of the relationship between action research and human subjects review processes. Action Research, 4(1), 117-128.
In this brief article, we review the history of the human subjects review process and identify key aspects of that review as they relate to action research. In particular, we examine the issues of coercion, predictability, confidentiality, and risk – concerns central to the criteria used in current review processes but reflecting fundamental differences in the basic conceptualization of ethical practice as this is understood in action research.
Howell, J. J., & Luckner, J. L. (2003). Helping one deaf student develop content literacy skills: An action research report. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 25(1), 23-27.
The development of reading skills is regarded as the highest priority area in contemporary education. Yet for many students who are deaf or hard of hearing, this is the academic area of greatest difficulty. Adding to this problem is the current demand that all students master higher levels of knowledge in content areas. In an effort to support students’ needs to become literate and master content, professionals are teaching students content literacy strategies. Explicit teaching and practice of these strategies can help students become more comfortable with reading textbooks, improve their ability to succeed in content classes, increase their comprehension, and build a foundation for lifelong learning. The authors of this article present the case report of an action research study conducted with one deaf student who excelled in a general education setting through the use of content literacy strategies.
Nolen, A., & Vander Putten, J. (2007). Action research in education: Addressing gaps in ethical principles and practices. Educational Researcher, 36(7), 401-407.
Action research in education has gained increasing attention in the past 20 years. It is viewed as a practical yet systematic research method that enables teachers to investigate their own teaching and their students’ learning. However, the ethical issues unique to this form of insider research have received less attention. Drawing on several professional associations’ principles for research practice, the authors identify a series of potential ethical issues inherent in action research in K–12 schools and the corresponding difficulties that action researchers encounter with the policies and procedures of institutional review boards. The authors conclude with recommendations for future practice addressed to three groups: institutional review boards, K–12 school professionals and teacher educators, and national professional and representative organizations.
Genat, B. (2009, Mar). Building emergent situated knowledges in participatory action research. Action Research, 7(1), 101-115.
Participatory action research (PAR) draws theoretically on the concepts of symbolic interactionism, particularly with regard to the collaborative construction and production of meanings. This article describes how action research builds meaningful theory at the local level thereby enabling researchers, researcher-participants and their local partners to foreground shared local understandings to critique more dominant discourses and policy positions regarding their circumstances. In so doing, this approach to PAR also draws on feminist understandings of standpoint epistemologies and situated knowledges and aligns itself with the politics of post-colonial theory and decolonizing methodologies.
Chapter 5. Collecting Data
Rubin, B., & Jones, M. (2007). Student action research: Reaping the benefits for students and school leaders. NASSP Bulletin, 91(4), 363-378.
Recent years have seen a proliferation of student action research both nationally and internationally. Going by various names—participatory research, action research, participatory evaluation—student action research is research that (a) is conducted by youth, within or outside of schools and classrooms, with the goal of informing and affecting school, community, and/or global problems and issues and (b) contributes to the positive development of a variety of academic, social, and civic skills in youth. This article reviews research and writing on student action research, describing different types of student action research initiatives, the benefits of this powerful practice, and how principals can manage implementation challenges.
Eikeland, O. (2006, Mar). Condescending ethics and action research: Extended review article. Action Research, 4(1), 37-47.
The article outlines ethical aspects of action research at two different levels: philosophical and ‘applied’. It also emphasizes ethical aspects of practitioner research and conventional social research tacitly implied in the relations between researchers and researched presupposed by the two approaches. Conventional research ethics is insufficient for grasping these aspects, since it is constituted within the relations assumed by conventional research. Conventional research ethics is also claimed to be a ‘condescending ethics’ unfit for action research because of its practice of ‘othering’ human beings as research subjects. This article interprets many ethical dilemmas experienced by action researchers as ‘othering-effects’, only to be overcome through the establishment of peer communities of inquiry among combined ‘practitioners-researchers-researched’. It uses a book on ethics and action research as a starting point for reflections about the very real challenges of creating peer communities of inquiry doing action/practitioner research.
Galman, S., Pica-smith, C., & Rosenberger, C. (2010, May/June). Aggressive and tender navigations: Teacher educators confront whiteness in their practice. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(3), 225-236. Empirical Action Research Study.
Although attention has been focused on transforming preservice teachers’ beliefs and developing practice with antiracist pedagogy, this study suggests that similar attention should be paid to teacher educators’ beliefs and practice. This article combines self-study of teacher education practices and focus group research to examine three elementary-level teacher educators’ treatment of antiracist pedagogy. The findings paint a frank portrait of what happens when scholars fail to interrogate whiteness in teacher education. Lessons learned from the authors’ struggle may provide illumination for teacher educators grappling with similar challenges.
Chapter 6. Analyzing Data
Klingman, A. (1990). Action research notes on developing school staff suicide-awareness training. School Psychology International, 11, 133-142.
This paper describes action research employed in the development of a suicide-prevention program which prepared educational staff to become 'gatekeepers'. Intervention strategies and programs were based on results of a survey. A quasi-experimental design was used to evaluate the workshops offered within this intervention. The three studies presented in the article demonstrate a collaboration between practitioner and researcher in a recurring cycle of basic research, program development and program evaluation, aimed at addressing the problem of adolescent-suicide prevention.
Levin, B., & Rock, T. (2003). The effects of collaborative action research on preservice and experienced teacher partners in professional development schools. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(2), 135-149.
This study describes the perspectives of five pairs of preservice teachers and their experienced mentor teachers who engaged collaboratively in planning, implementing, and evaluating action research projects during a semester-long internship experience in their professional development school sites. The views of novice and experienced teachers about the costs and benefits of doing collaborative action research are presented, and the authors elaborate on the development of the mentor/mentee relationship between the preservice and experienced teacher pairs. The authors also offer guidelines for successfully engaging preservice and experienced teachers in collaborative action research.
Phillips, D. K. & Carr, K. (2009, June). Dilemmas of trustworthiness in preservice teacher action research. Action Research, 7(2), 207-226.
Can preservice teachers carry out trustworthy action research? We have found that action research can be a powerful experience for preservice teachers. Yet preservice teacher action research projects involve complexities unique to a preservice teacher's position as `guest', `student', `teacher', and `researcher'. In this article, we suggest criteria for trustworthy preservice teacher action research that embraces these complexities as sources of strength. We base our criteria upon analysis of action research projects produced by students in the teacher education program where we teach. We apply trustworthiness criteria from qualitative research (Arminio & Hultgren, 2002; Kincheloe, 2003; Lather, 1991; Reason & Bradbury, 2001; Richardson, 1997) to guide our analysis, but we interpret `trustworthiness' through the lens of preservice teacher context and experience. Our intent is to honor the voices of preservice teachers telling their own stories of becoming a teacher through action research.
Weaver-Hightower, M. B. (2010, Sept). Using action research to challenge stereotypes: A case study of boys’ education work in Australia. Action Research, 8(3), 333-356.
Action research has a long history of focus on social justice. This article examines such a project, a grant-funded action research project in Australia designed for a group of 14 teachers to study boys’ writing and their attitudes about writing. I argue that action research was a crucial methodology to help the participating teachers frame boys’ education issues as nuanced and complex from the beginning, and they were thus able to look past overgeneralizations and stereotypes that circulate in the media and popular books about boys. I list some of these stereotypes and then compare them to the teachers’ action research findings. Finally, I explore implications for action research educators and project directors.
Chapter 7. Developing an Action Plan
Burgess, J. (2006). Participatory action research: First-person perspectives of a graduate student. Action Research, 4(4), 419-437.
This article examines the tensions and challenges of a graduate student maneuvering the institutional hierarchies in her journey of participatory action research (PAR). By using a first-person action research framework, the researcher moves back and forth exploring the prose of others, and revealing her reflexive self inquiry of underlying assumptions and beliefs. Iterations of insider-outsider positionality, drawing on and integrating paradigms, reconciling multiple roles and perspectives, exploring the complexity of power relations, and uncovering the promises and perils of PAR, moves the researcher toward a partnership with her community of inquiry. First-person action research unfolds a process of self-transformation.
Kitchen, J., & Stevens, D. (2008). Action research in teacher education: Two teacher-educators practice action research as they introduce action research to preservice teachers. Action Research, 6(1), 7-28.
Two teacher-educators, an instructor and a teaching assistant, designed an action research project focused on enhancing their professional practice and the practice of their students by introducing the preservice teachers to action research. Both teachereducators viewed this decision as progressive and emancipatory, as action research encourages inquiry and reflection, connects theory to practice, and creates links between preservice and in-service teaching. Simultaneously, the teacher-educators integrated preservice curriculae, modeling the enriched teaching and learning that can result from an interdisciplinary approach. Data include preservice teachers’ action research proposals, reports and reflections, as well as the teacher-educators’ reflections and collaborative conversations. Instructors used self-study methodology to reflect on their effectiveness in enhancing the professional lives of their students and themselves. A significant number of preservice teachers indicated that engaging in action research expanded their conceptions of teaching; such expansion holds potential for fostering change in schools.
Spalding, E., Klecka, C. L., Lin, E., Odell, S. J., & Wang, J. (2010, May/Jun). Social justice and teacher education: A hammer, a bell, and a song. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(3), 191-196.
Abstract no abstract available
Walsh, C. A., Rutherford, G. E., & Sears, A. E. (2010, June). Fostering inclusivity through teaching and learning action research. Action Research, 8(2), 191-209.
In post-secondary curricula, the introduction of research paradigms that emphasize community inclusion and social action is increasingly valued by scholars. However, there is only a modest amount of scholarship regarding how the delivery of such material should be structured, or the challenges and/or successes with various course models. In this article the authors synthesize the existing literature on developing and implementing courses on alternative research paradigms, and use it to analyze the development and implementation of an innovative undergraduate course taught on community based research in the spring of 2007. Taught in the setting of a local homeless shelter, course learners included undergraduate students of social work and nursing, staff members from the homeless-serving agency, individuals from the homeless community, and the course instructors themselves. The authors present the challenges and successes of this particular course model in reference to the suggestions gleaned from academic scholarship, and make recommendations to those involved in teaching models of action research.
Chapter 8. Sharing and Reflecting
Arnold, D. (1998). Action research in action: Curricular articulation and integrated instruction. NASSP Bulletin, 82, 74-78.
Action research can be a potent tool for school improvement and a catalyst for change. Galax High School developed a project on integrated instruction to increase curricular articulation and connections among disciplines in the school, and to decrease the isolation often experienced by teachers.
Cain, T. (2010, May). Music teachers’ action research and the development of Big K knowledge. International Journal of Music Education, 28(2), 159-175.
Although action research is widely acknowledged to have benefits in terms of improving practice and professional development, its ability to generate new knowledge, and hence its status as research, is debatable. Indeed, there are questions as to whether it can be called ‘proper’ research. This article draws on the Southampton Music Action Research Project, 2007—08, to examine how seven secondary school music teachers undertook practitioner research projects in England, and what knowledge their projects generated. It finds that this knowledge included experiential, presentational, propositional and practical knowing. Although such knowledge is positioned as ‘Little K’ knowledge, the reception accorded to it by other teachers suggests that knowledge, generated by teachers’ action research, might sometimes have potential to be accepted as ‘Big K’ knowledge.
Chapter 9. Writing Up Action Research
Sankaran, S. (2005). Notes from the field: Action research conversations. Action Research, 3(4), 341-352.
I had the pleasure of meeting several action researchers across the USA during my sabbatical late last year. The multiple purposes for my visit to the USA were to meet doctoral students doing their research in organizational change and development in Hawaii; interview prominent action researchers in the US about examining action research dissertations; and to have discussions with action researchers on ways to increase conversations among action researchers around the world. I thought it would be good to share some insights from my visit with fellow action researchers as a letter to Action Research.
Sankaran, S., Hase, S., Dick, B., & Davies, A. (2007). Singing different tunes from the same song sheet: Four perspectives of teaching the doing of action research. Action Research, 5(3), 293-305.
In a move consistent with co-generated learning, this article is co-written by teachers of action research and a former student. Before we present the content and structure of the actual course, we write about the vital issues in teaching action research. We then describe the course and finally hear a former student (himself now supervising doctoral students) on the merits of this particular approach to learning AR as a doctoral student. This article represents the combined experience of the authors in teaching action research together for several years at Southern Cross University in New South Wales, Australia. While involved in the same general activity our focus and experiences have, naturally, been quite different and we have tried to communicate them in this article. Hopefully, our learning will be of some value to the readers. What follows, then, are the thoughts of: Bob, the master action research craftsman and educator; Alan, who sees the bigger picture no matter what he is looking at; Shankar, the implementer and coordinator of projects; and Stewart, who struggles and is at peace with a world full of contradictions.
Casey, A. & Dyson, B. (2009, June). The implementation of models-based practice in physical education through action research. European Physical Education Review, 15(2), 175-199.
The purpose of this study was to explore the use of action research as a framework to investigate cooperative learning and tactical games as instructional models in physical education (PE). The teacher/researcher taught a tennis unit using a combination of Cooperative Learning and Teaching Games for Understanding to three classes of boys aged 11—12. Data collection included: teacher and pupil evaluations of skill, pupil reflections on the lessons, pupil interviews, teacher field journal and the documentation and course materials from the unit of work. Data analysis was conducted using inductive analysis and constant comparison (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994; Lincoln and Guba, 1985). The results of this research reinforce the concept that the implementation of any new pedagogical approach is time-consuming and highly labour intensive (Fullan, 1999). The conceptual shift the teacher/researcher made to relinquish control to students was one of the most difficult, but important, outcomes of this action research process.
Cooper, K. & White, R. E. (2008, July). Critical literacy for school improvement: An action research project. Improving Schools, 11(2), 101-113. Empirical action research study.
This article provides an overview of the integrative process of initiating an action research project on literacy for students `at risk' in a Canadian urban elementary school. As the article demonstrates, this requires development of a school-wide framework, which informs the action research project and desired outcomes, and a shared ownership of this vision by school community and staff. Preliminary understandings provide information and considerations that serve to inform discussions about school/curriculum reform and related concerns about Critical Literacy.