Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers


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Kincheloe - - Routledge. Paul McIntosh - - Routledge. John Elliott - - Routledge. Action Research and Policy. Robert P. Lewis , Aimee Morewood , Susan H. Finding a Voice Through Research. Philosophy, Methodology and Action Research. Wilfred Carr - - Journal of Philosophy of Education 40 4 — Action Research? Scandinavian Experiences. Downloads Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart. Sign in to use this feature.

No keywords specified fix it. Researchers later clarified this option to teachers, who nonetheless considered it an insufficient response compared to the original request. On the other hand, teachers sometimes formed alliances with other groups to push through their ideas. Teacher 4 felt that the software should include audio of readings of each unit, demonstrating to children reading techniques such as correct pronunciation.

Researchers and coordinators of Leer Programme agreed that these changes were pertinent to improving the software. However, digital developers rejected these modifications as being too difficult to incorporate to the existing version of the software. After much persuasion, the developers agreed to make the changes in the version that was due in the following academic year.

It must be noted that participation occurred across the various stakeholders involved in the project, sometimes excluding the teachers. While teachers were engaged as participants, other groups were engaged in heated negotiations as well. Coordinators of the Leer Programme suggested that the software reflect the colour scheme adopted by the physical textbook, wherein various stages of the learning process for reading comprehension are uniquely colour coded. Developers were expected to incorporate the initial feedback to the development of unit 3.

However, similar to the problems faced at the baseline phase when delays in deliverables were encountered, developers were not able to meet the expected deadlines for delivering subsequent units to schools, hence, once again, building tensions between researchers and digital developers. The differences in work requirements and resultant schedules of the various groups of stakeholders were another source of tension for the participatory process. Delays in software delivery by the developers and national-level strike by teachers not only delayed commencement of the PAR process with teachers but also interrupted the PAR schedule as agreed with schools.

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Hence, the majority of the feedback and interaction regarding the initial development of the software was limited to researchers and developers. Further along in the PAR process, teachers did not review or reflect on modifications made, taking their role in the process for granted. It was observed that teachers tended to repeat their suggestions on improvements to software during the PAR. For example, Teacher 1 repeatedly brought up issues she faced with saving PDF files to assess student work, but this problem was solved in the first cycle.

In addition, this teacher highlighted that the software include a feature to review student achievements over the weeks. However, when asked if she had checked the software upgrade recently, she mentioned not having the time to do so.

What is action research?

Such instances demonstrated that teachers might not necessarily keep track of the improvements made to the software, where in some cases, they might merely repeat previously mentioned suggestions without much interest in recognizing the progress made to the software. Externalities in the form of maintenance support and differential syllabi hampered the effectiveness of PAR as a tool to empower teachers in the adoption and usage of technology. Generally, teachers found it easy to use the software in classes but had issues with the lack of maintenance and inoperative computers in their schools.

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A secondary issue arose when teachers from different schools used the software during respective reading comprehension classes. While all teachers started with section 1 of unit 1, some of them chose to proceed without necessarily following the syllabus order as proposed by Leer. This could be because teachers advanced with the coursework at different levels. This lag between the PAR software iterations and proceedings in the class schedule adversely affected teacher participation in the programme, where they were both unprepared and unwilling to provide feedback on the Leer software.

This research study set out to interrogate the assumption that participatory processes in technology introduction in the domain of education would yield beneficial results. The PAR process may apply different definitions of impact to developmental domains beyond that of education. Therefore in this study, impact was defined as empowerment of teachers in terms of their competences, confidence level and attitudes towards change.

The approach assumed that an inclusive approach with a hitherto absent stakeholder, the teachers, as the focal point would lead to improvements in second-order benefits, as framed by Ertmer et al. Defining impact in a development project related to education in terms of second-order benefits such as attitudinal and competence change of key stakeholder teachers , rather than educational attainment of the ultimate beneficiary students , creates problematic assessments.

John E. Henning, Ph.D.

The objective of the project may begin with the premise that community dialogue and debate are the immediate objectives, leading into collective action Figueroa et al. We caution against such conceptualizations of participation as an end in itself and a recognition that the community of stakeholders is diverse, both in its groupings and the motivations that guide it to action. While these second-order benefits were being realized, we noticed increasingly diminished returns as the process went along. This behaviour may be considered a sign of success, as teachers were less reliant on the participatory process as source of support, but achieved a self-reliance in the use of the technology.

It is important to note that the participatory process needs to acknowledge the varied motivations and skill sets of the engaged constituencies, rather than elevating a formerly ignored albeit important community into a focal position. These unforeseen realities of working with specific communities for PAR were not taken into consideration when planning the PAR process yet revealed a dynamic that could allow for multiple voices to create an output that is potentially better than one decided by a single group.

Further research is required to judge whether educational outcomes at both student and teacher levels respond to such a collaborative technology development process. Open Access This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author s and source are credited.

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Open Access. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves. Download chapter PDF. Key aspects of participatory research that recommend it as a methodology for ICT projects include a focus on simultaneous data gathering and analysis, a flexible inquiry process that focuses on the lived experiences of participants as well as a cyclical approach to planning, acting, observing and reflecting on findings Coghlan and Brannick As illustrated in Fig. This includes a variety of ethnographic approaches such as semi-structured and in-depth interviews and participant observations.

Further, it has been noted that the PAR method should be adopted from the onset of application design and must involve constant monitoring Tufte and Mefalopulos Open image in new window. Finally, we reflect upon the strange looking-glass dynamic of the PAR process because we, as researchers, cannot avoid being central characters. While the theorized process assumed an equal conversation between the varied groups, in reality see Fig.

It would be interesting to understand how such dynamics would be practiced in reality without the presence of a research group. Further, we acknowledge that the subsequent dissemination, usage and adoption of the digital Leer innovation by Peruvian teachers will occur without a technological development process.

New questions shall necessarily arise—whether the principles of participatory democratic engagement in technology design and development translate into measurable impacts at the student level—and to be answered in the future. Abdullah, K.

Barriers to the successful Integration of ICT in teaching and learning environments: A review of the literature. Google Scholar. Afshari, M. International Journal of Instruction, 2 1 , 77— Ale, K. Community factors in technology adoption in primary education: Perspectives from rural India. Information Technologies and International Development, 7 4 , 53— Alexander, S.

An evaluation of innovative projects involving communication and information technology in higher education. Higher Education Research and Development, 18 2 , — CrossRef Google Scholar. Armstrong, V. Collaborative research methodology for investigating teaching and learning: The use of interactive whiteboard technology. Educational Review, 57 4 , — Bai, H.

Ideas from the Field

Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 16 1 , 93— Balanskat, A. A review of studies of ICT impact on schools in Europe. BBVA Foundation. El Programa [The program]. Becker, H. When powerful tools meet conventional beliefs and instructional constraints.


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Derndorfer, C. Drent, M. Which factors obstruct or stimulate teacher educators to use ICT innovatively? Ertmer, P. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 32 1 , 54— Teacher beliefs and technology integration practices: A critical relationship. Figueroa, M. Communication for social change: An integrated model for measuring the process and its outcomes.

Fullan, M. The new meaning of educational change. Gobbo, C. Journal of Information Technology far Teacher Education, 10 1 , 63— Goktas, Y. Main barriers and possible enablers of ICTs integration into preservice teacher education programs. This formulation represents a tension between forces that lead to personal, professional and social change. Action research can be seen as a systematic, reflective study of one's actions, and the effects of these actions, in a workplace, organizational, or community context. As such, it involves deep inquiry into one's professional practice.

Importantly, it is also a collaborative process as it is done WITH people in a social context and understanding the change means probing multiple understanding of complex social systems. Finally, as research, it implies a commitment to data sharing and knowledge construction. People use a range of modifiers for action research. We use collaborative action research to highlight the different ways in which action research involves collaboration with critical friends. Action researchers examine their interactions and relationships in social settings seeking opportunities for improvement.

As designers and stakeholders, they work with their colleagues to propose new courses of action that help their community improve work practices. As researchers, they seek evidence from multiple sources to help them analyze reactions to the action taken. They recognize their view as one perspective and seek to develop their understanding of the events from multiple perspectives.


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The action researcher uses data collected from interactions with others to characterize the forces in ways that can be shared with other practitioners. Data analysis leads to a reflective phase in which the action researchers formulates new plans for action during the next cycle. Over time, action researchers develop a deep understanding of how a variety of social and environmental forces interact to create complex patterns. This diagram illustrates the process of action research through time.

The subject s of action research are the actions taken, the resulting change, and the transformation thinking, acting, and feeling by the persons enacting the change. While the design of action research may originate with an individual, the process of change is always social. Over time, the action researcher often extends the arena of change to a widening group of stakeholders. The goal is a deeper understanding of the factors of change which result in positive personal, professional, and organizational change.

This form of research then is an iterative, cyclical process of reflecting on practice, taking action, reflecting, and taking further action. Therefore, the research takes shape while it is being performed. Greater understanding from each cycle points the way to improved practice Riel and Rowell, Action researchers differ in the weight that they put on different factors or dimensions of action research for more discussion and examples, see Rowell, Riel and Polush, Each action researcher evolves his or her approach to doing action research as the conditions and support structures are unique.

To understand how action research varies, I describe two points, A, and B, along six dimensions. When someone engages in action research, they or others make choices that place them at some point along the continuum for each dimension. Some will argue that side A, or B, or a perfect balance between them, is ideal, or even necessary, to call the process action research.

Most will have compellling arguments for why all action research should be done in the way they advocate. The dialogue is healthy and helps us each understand the value of the positions we take. By understanding the boundaries, we develop a deeper understanding of the process. If you click on the continuum, you can make your own choices and compare them with hundreds of thousands of other responders. Theory from Practice - Using practices to generate theories beginning with values, needs, and knowledge of human interaction B. Theory into Practice - Using social science findings to inform patterns of change.

Inside Expertise - Action researchers are empowered to locate problems of practice and develop methods to improve them B. Outside Expertise - Action researchers form partnerships with outside experts to guide the process. Individual Process - Action researchers select their own questions to investigate B. Group Process - A group of action researchers select a common question or set of questions to investigate. Problem-Based Approach - Action Researchers locate problems and engage in progressive problem-solving in cycles B.

Inquiry-Based Approach - Action Researchers explore effective practices to better understand and perfect them through multiple cycles. Identity Transformation - The primary outcome of action research is to change to the way the action researcher thinks, acts and feels B. Social Change -The primary outcomes of action research is the shift in the social context where people collectively change how they act, think and feel. Shared Practices - Action Researchers share what they have learned informally at their site B.

Shared Knowledge- Action Researchers share their findings in more formal context s. The movement to one or the other side of each continuum represents shifts in the action research approach. For many, action research is a disposition of mind as well as a research approach. It is a commitment to cycles of collective inquiry with shared reflections on the outcomes leading to new ideas.

Goals of Collaborative Action Research include: To improve professional practice through continual learning and progressive problem solving; To achieve a deeper understanding of organizational change through collective actions; To improve the community in which one's practice is embedded through participatory action learning or research. Collaborative Action Research involves a systematic process of examining the evidence. The data analysis can be done by action researcher s , but is more powerful when it is done with a group of people who are invested in the outcome. This type of research builds knowledge, informs theory, and changes practice.

The validity of action research does not come from cross-setting comparisons as much as from the over-time iterative analysis. Critical reflection is at the heart of action research. When this reflection is based on careful examination of evidence from multiple perspectives, it can provide an effective strategy for improving the organization's ways of working and the whole organizational culture. It can be the process through which an organization or community learns.

It can also provide research knowledge to guide others who are working in similar settings or who have similar change visions. While some question the validity of action research and see the results of only of a practical nature Ellstrom, , For the knowledge to have validity, Ellstrom recommends collaborative inquiry between a university researcher with theoretical expertise and an action researcher with practical knowledge. He suggest that classroom inquiry should involved a university reseacher paired with the practitioner and the practitioner who would be focused on changing practice while the researcher whould be analysing the data and writing about knowledge and theories.

This approach does not empower practitioners to engage in their own knowledge building process, but insteads continues to suggest a dependence on the academy to share research findings. I reject the premise of his arguments that challenge both the value and validity of action research. I have watched practitioners develop research skills over time that are similar to those of university researchers. I see value in reworking his model of overlapping systems, but not between action researchers and university researchers.

I have revised his model to help think about how action researchers might conceptualize the way they partner with participants in their action research. It provides a way to conceptualize how action learning and action research might work together. Figure 3: Relationship between action research and action learning process adapted from Ellstrom's model.

Outcomes of Collaborative Action Research We conceptualize collaborative action research as having three outcomes—on the personal, organizational and scholarly levels. Action research is often located in schools and done by teachers, but it can also be carried out in museums, medical organizations, corporations, churches, and clubs—any setting where people are engaged in collective, goal-directed activity. Equally important, not all teacher research is action research. Teachers can do ethnographic, evaluative or experimental research that is NOT action research. At the organizational level, action research is about understanding the system of interactions that defines a social context.

Kurt Lewin proposed action research as a method of understanding social systems or organizational learning. He claimed that the best way to test understanding is to try to effect change. The action researcher s begin with a theory of action focused on the intentional introduction of change into a social system with assumptions about the outcomes. This theory testing requires careful attention to data, and skill in interpretation and analysis. Theories, such as Activity theory, social network theory, system theories, and tools such as surveys, interviews and focus groups can help the action researchers acquire a deep understanding of change in social contexts within organizations.

At the scholarly level, the action researcher produces validated findings and assumes a responsibility to share these findings with those in their setting and with the broader research community. Many people acquire expertise in their workplace, but researchers value the process of building knowledge through ongoing dialogue about the nature of their findings.

Engaging in this dialogue, through writing or presenting at conferences and encouraging and supporting others in the process to do the same, is part of the process of collaborative action research. The questions asked by action researchers guide their process. A good question will inspire one to look closely and collect evidence that will help find possible answers. What are good examples of action research questions?

Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers
Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers
Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers
Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers
Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers
Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers Using Action Research to Improve Instruction: An Interactive Guide for Teachers

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