Action Research Method of Data Collection


Action research is a method that entails a deep inquiry into an individual practice in service. It is aimed at moving into an envisioned future that is aligned with values. It involves a consistent study of one’s actions and the effects of these actions in the working place. Thus, it involves a thorough inquiry into one’s professional practices. The researcher analyzes and studies one’s work trying to find some new approaches for improvement (Riel, 2010). In action research, the researchers “work with colleagues to propose new courses of action that help their community improve work practices” (Riel, 2010, par. 1). The researcher collects appropriate data that he/she is used to formulating new plans of action in the following phase. It is taken as a method of learning from one’s working experiences through consecutive reflective phases that promote the development and formation of adaptive expertise (Creswell, 2009).

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The function of this study is to explain how action research is conducted. This will be imperative as it will highlight how action research is different from the other research methods studied. This will be very essential as it will make the learners conversant on the kind of researches it is most suited for.

Paradigm it uses

Action research is not linked to the positivism paradigm. The paradigm stresses observation and reason as the means of understanding human behavior. The positivism paradigm claims that real knowledge is founded on experiences on sense and can be gotten through observation and experimentation. Those scholars that adopt this paradigm do it as a means of knowledge generation. Thus, it is recommended that scientists comprehend this knowledge within a certain framework of principles as well as assumptions of science. Examples of some assumptions that accompany the paradigm of positivism include empiricism, determinism, parsimony as well as a generality. Determinism assumes that every event is caused by other circumstances. Empiricism entails the gathering of verifiable reasons in supporting hypotheses or theories. Parsimony involves an explanation of the phenomena using the most economical approach. Generality is the means of generalizing certain observations to the world at range (Dash, 2005). The chief aim of a theory is to synthesis gathered evidence into a meaningful theory that is used to give guidance. Theories are subject to revision and modification as witnessed in the action research which is derived from a series of phases that build on the proceeding ones. Positivism is mostly suited for the quantitative research approach.

Action research design is not based on the Anti-positivism paradigm. This is because the Anti-positivism paradigm is based on a phenomenology principle that is a theoretical perspective that points that individual behaviors are determined by individuals’ interactions with the phenomenon. The principal rules out any interference from external reality. This is not in line with the basis of action research because action research puts into consideration the effects of external factors in influencing behaviors.

Action research is linked with the critical theory paradigm. This theory tries to offer an opportunity for growth and development by identifying underlying constraint conditions.

Entomology and Epistemology of Action Research

Ontology is concerned with identifying whether reality is objective and external to human beings or whether it’s just an illusion of one’s consciousness. One of the ontological assumptions in action research is the social-cultural assumption that is interested in the relationship between the environment and human beings. The assumption tries to identify whether humans respond to external stimuli or are initiators of their actions. The ontological assumption of the action research that regards the world as orderly, lawful, and predictive distinguishes the action research from other qualitative methods. In action research, the researcher is assumed to be part of the research process. The researcher assumes the role of an observer and is not part of the research process. The case study is an example of such research. Researches conducted through this process often are highly influenced by the notions of positivism and empiricism and tries to guarantee certain truths. Thus, they are cannot be the basis for predicting new knowledge as they are believed to be founded on unchallenged truth.

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Epistemology is the concern of knowledge and how it can be received (McGill and Beaty, 1992). Epistemology tries to identify whether we view knowledge as the objectivity of reality or as the subject reality of our experiences. In the past epistemology was mainly objective and the researcher mainly took an observer role. However, nowadays epistemology has changed and is more often subjective and is not limited to the scientific methods. This has perspective has been very instrumental in helping the action research with its in predicting future behaviors. The positivism approach is regarded as inflexible and biased as it only concentrates on the method adopted as well as the outcomes and is not concerned with the process itself (McGill and Beaty, 1992).

The axiological and rhetorical of an action research

The action research axiological and rhetorical assumption is that reality is the outcome of a rational agreement that is arrived at through critical discussion. Here the focus is mainly on inter-dependence but not independence.

Data Collection Methods

Qualitative researchers employ four different methods in collecting relevant data. These methods include; gathering existing evidence, observation and recording situations as well as interviewing and questionnaires. It is believed that instructions have a wide range of existing evidence that can be used as the source of data for action research (Beaty, Bourner, and Frost, 1993). Such evidence can be collected from a portfolio which is a purpose file for everything happening. Written evidence is considered imperative as a baseline for what happened in the past and is very invaluable in comparing the past approach with new methods. Examples include learners’ papers, progress reports, letters of complaint, accident reports, operation policies among others. Unwritten evidence includes state of repair of pieces of equipment, cover designs of books. Observation is the second common method of collecting relevant data for action research. Direct contact of a researcher with the setting gives him/her ample time to study all appropriate variables (Boddy, 1979). Gather is gathered through personal stories, histories feelings as well as experiences. In addition, this opportunity helps the researcher to observe some conflicts that were not noted when gathering data. The observation can take the form of an onlooker or participant. During observation the observer notes who talks to whom, the number of interactions present. Who initiated the talks. Documentation situations include; anecdote records as well as descriptive accounts of happenings. In the interviewing method, questions relevant to the situation are presented and discussed accordingly. The last method of data collection entails the use of questionnaires which are mainly open-ended to facilitate the respondent to contribute his/her ideas.

Data Analysis

The data collected is organized and tabulated. Some of the data is first coded accordingly to make it easier to analyze. Data analysis involves deducing appropriate inferences from the collected data. This helps in assigning appropriate meaning to the data collected. Action research is mainly concerned with building a new theory. Thus, the most appropriate method of data interpretation will be proposing a suitable explanation of some observable phenomenon. Alternatively, the researcher can opt to analyze the change noted over a series of times between causes and effects against a theoretically derived historical relationship that is specified before the study (Bennet, 1990).


The main limitations for action research are the analytical as well as methodology adopted. One of the constraints is the reliability of the results of the analysis. The limitation occurs because of the interpretative technique used by the researcher. In action research, the analysis of the research is based on the researcher’s interpretation of the data gathered. The researcher does not use a standard method to conduct the analysis and his/her explanation of the findings is final. The reason behind this orientation is because action research is not objective to the laws of natural science. The methods used to conduct this research are also subject to error. For instance, while collecting appropriate data, the study recommends recording all observations noted including feelings. This is sometimes difficult since many people are known to withhold their feelings which can be a great source of error (Beinum, 2000).

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Action research is appropriate in an education setting as it is an inquiry method that is focused on improving the performance and quality of an organization. It is mainly employed by practitioners who analyze gathered data to improve their practice. This type of research is believed to have the potential to bring real and lasting improvements in schools. This is because it gives new educators new opportunities to reflect on as well as assess their teaching, explore and test new teaching methods as well as teach materials. They do so to evaluate how these new materials or approaches were, share their feedback with their peers, and make recommendations about the materials or approaches to incorporate in the team’s instructions, assessment plans as well as curriculum (Anthony, 1981; Ballantyne, Bruce & Packer, 1993).

Nevertheless, action research is not suitable for conducting some researches. For instance, action research should not be the most appropriate method for an experienced education practitioner to assess his/her teaching skills. This is because such practitioners have already identified their most appropriate teaching strategy. Similarly, in most cases, many education systems have standard teaching approaches that are required to be observed by all practitioners (Boddy, 1981).

The writing style adopted for this research should include:

Writing them regularly

  1. To disregard the punctuations, sentence structures when writing entries
  2. One should leave sufficient margin on each side of the page to insert changes as well as additions and resources.
  3. Each new entry should be accompanied by the location of the event, time and date, and any other essential detail.
  4. All appropriate observations, reactions, reflections, feelings, ideas, explanations

Reference List

  1. Anthony, W. (1981). Using Internships for Action Learning. Journal of European Industrial Training, 5, 40-45.
  2. Ballantyne, R., Bruce, C. & Packer, J. (1993). Action Learning in Vocational Education and Training. Theoretical Background, 1, 3, 67-89
  3. Beaty, L. Bourner, T. and Frost, P. (1993). Action Learning: Reflections on Becoming a Set Member, Management Education, and Development, 14, 4, 20-30
  4. Beinum, H. (2000). Ideas and practices in action research: An institutional journey. Amsterdam: Benjamins
  5. Bennet, R. (1990). Effective Set Advising in Action Learning. Journal of European Industrial Training, 14, 7, 89-91.
  6. Boddy, D. (1979). Some Lessons from an Action Learning Programme, Journal of European Industrial Training, 3, 3, 56-59
  7. Boddy, D. (1981). Putting Action Learning into Action, Journal of European Industrial Training, 5, 5, 10-13
  8. Creswell, J. (2009). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among Five Approaches. New York: Prentice-Hall.
  9. Dash, N. K. (2005). Module: Selection of the Research Paradigm and Methodology. 
  10. McGill, I., & Beaty, L. (1992). Action Learning: A Practitioner’s Guide. London: Kogan Page
  11. Riel, M. (2010). Understanding Action Research. Center For Collaborative Action Research. Pepperdine University.
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