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Postgraduate programs using action research
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Action Research, 4 4 , — Peters, J. Chattanooga, TN. 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? What are questions that are less likely to promote the process of deep sustained inquiry? The best question is the one that will inspire the researcher to look at their practice deeply and to engage in cycles of continuous learning from the everyday practice of their craft.
These questions come from a desire to have practice align with values and beliefs. Exploring these questions helps the researcher to be progressively more effective in attaining their personal goals and developing professional expertise. Good questions often arise from visions of improved practice and emerging theories about the change that will move the researcher closer to the ideal state of working practices.
If I [insert the action to be taken], how will it affect [describe one or more possible consequences of the action]? We will look at two examples, one from education and one from a business.
Classroom Action Research
Suppose the researcher is worried about designing the learning context to meet the needs of students who are currently not doing well in the classroom. The general question might be:. How can I personalize instruction to match the diverse needs of my students?
This forms a good overall goal which can then lead to many possible cycles of action research, each with a separate question. I find that forming cycle research questions in two parts is helpful. The first half describes the action and the second part focuses on the outcome that is anticipated and will be measured. If I listen to students, will I have a better understanding of them?
This question suggests an action and a possible outcome but they are vague in both in the description of the action and in the possible outcome. It is not clear how the action researcher will increase attention to students and what evidence will help evaluate the action. If I set up community circle time to listen to students describe their learning experiences in my classroom description of the action , in what ways, if any, will the information about their learning processes lead to changes in my teaching practices description of the outcome that will be studied?
Now it is clear what the researcher intends to do and what a possible outcome might be. In listening to students, the researcher might discover information that will lead directly to an experiment in instructional design. Or might refocus the overall goal to one that was not apparent when the researcher began the inquiry. The following is another example, from a business setting where people in diverse offices are working in ways that would benefit from greater coordination.
The action researcher might identify the problem as one in which poor communication results in decisions being made without attending to the issue of how a decision affects the larger system. The researcher might see a role for technology in forging a solution to this problem, such as creating a database for storing and sharing documents.
The overall research question might be:. How can the development of a common location for shared knowledge and the use of interactive communication tools increase the collaborative effectiveness of team-based decision-making in our different regions? The next step is to define what kind of communication tool will be used and how the researcher plans to measure collaborative effectiveness of the distant teams.
Cycle questions that might evolve should be specific to the actions taken and the outcomes that will be monitored and measured:. If I introduce Google documents to share data and increase coordination, to what extent will the teams use this means of storing information to coordinate data to facilitate data-driven decision making?
Action research and advocacy training for Women Participating in Public Life programme - INTRAC
A second cycle question that might follow when it is clear that teams failed to use the shared document tool as effectively as the researcher had hoped:. How will making all day support available on instant messenger for questions about the uses and organization of shared documents organize group work?
For example, suppose a person has been holding family math night for years and sees an effect on parent participation. A weak question for action research would be: Will holding a family math night increase parent participation? This might be a useful evaluative research question where a study could be set up to explore the connection. But evaluative research is different than action research.
Action research is inquiry with the goal of deeper understanding, and involves implementing an action with the intention to learn from the consequences. Generally these are questions that will not encourage paying attention to the many nuances of the setting and the social interactions.
For example: Will the introduction of project-based learning lead to more student engagement?
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The question might be reworked to, How will the introduction of project-based learning affect student engagement in my classroom? The first one, the researcher can answer the question with yes an outcome that they might already be able to predict. The second question guides them to look for the possible mechanism of project-based learning maybe ownership, collaboration, or self-assessment that have been found to be related to increased engagement.
Questions that can be answered by reading the literature. For example, consider a definitional question like: What does community of practice mean?