The research paper explains the action research methodology. It clarifies its appropriateness in the teaching profession to assist in solving problems. Using available literature, the research paper reveals the action research in problem solving for specific problems. Action research follows a cycle of planning, action, observation and reflection until an appropriate solution is found. The participant who becomes a researcher formulates an action research question, collects relevant data and analyzes the data to obtain meaning. The researcher presents results and takes an action to intervene in the situation. Action research philosophy is communication, reflexive technique, collaborative resources, and a structure that allow multiplicity of ideas. It is recommended that participants uphold ethics by maintaining confidentiality, equal access to developments in research and obtaining consent from relevant authorities to conduct research. Action research is criticized for being prone to bias from participants, who may have individual interest. The participants who are teachers can do the research in haste since they utilize time within their schedules and the findings cannot be generalized. Importantly, action research can enable the researcher find applicable solution to specific problems.
Research refers to important actions that enable people solve problems based on evidence. There are different ways of conducting research. Research, being a systematic method of inquiry, can help people understand problems and their causes and assist in finding the appropriate solutions for the existing issues. Knowledge is obtained from research. Moreover, research is considered a credible way of conducting investigation. One of the ways of conducting research is action research. It has been implemented and utilized in different situations and has provided solutions. This essay will explain how one can utilize action research methodology to answer a question in the teaching profession. It will discuss the design, implement, gather and analyze data, reflect, introduce intervention and explain why it is an appropriate methodology.
This research paper will review literature on the action research. It will evaluate documented action research design to gain more understanding of the action research process.
Definition and Understanding of Action Research.
Stringer (2007, p. 1) defines action research as examination of particular problems that are experienced by people. Particular problems are given localized solutions in action research. Action research differs with scientific research because it avoids using generalized justification of a problem. Action research assists in giving solutions in complex issues that are common in a community. Research is an inquiry that is precise and an orderly process that enables researchers to understand the problem. It investigates a problem in an inquiry process to obtain explanations.
Action research holds that generalizations may not be accurate in particular situations. Therefore, it is necessary to acquire suitable solutions which will be relevant and fit in the specific problem. General solutions may not be appropriate for all who are assigned a solution. Generalized solutions can be customized to fit the particular situation.
Southard (2006, p. 6) argues that, action research differs with traditional research. In action research, research is conducted in a controlled environment by authorities or data collectors, the thorough research designs depict cause and effect relationship while reducing biases. Knowledge that is obtained is then generalized. On the other hand, action research is often conducted by participation of the researcher in a less controlled environment than in traditional research.
The aim of action research is to understand a specific problem in the given environment and apply applicable solutions directly to those facing the challenge. An example of action research is a teacher conducting research in a classroom to test education theories and make changes to the specific class. Another example is a medical practitioner giving assistance to the patient by following up at every stage of treatment. Action research is effective in conducting investigation to improve a given situation (Hendricks, 2008).
O’Brien (1998, p. 1) notes that those involved in action research become researchers and continually focus on using appropriate methodological tools which are suitable. Their role is to collect data, evaluate data and give outcomes in an ongoing repeated research.
In teaching, action research can be effective in obtaining solution for real problems. The research can be conducted in the normal classroom and in schools. The teacher becomes a researcher. To achieve the objectives of the investigation, the researchers engage in communication and interactions at all stages of action research. Teachers have a sense of empowerment when they gain knowledge from the process. As a teacher, one of the considerations to make the action research a success is to be able to contribute in own filed and make relevant changes while observing the progress of the actions.
An individual can conduct action research; participants forming collaboration can also conduct action research. An institution can also conduct action research by using its own teachers and inviting a researcher. The role of the researcher is to cooperate and work with other participants to effectively utilize the methodology of action research. Their actions should be complementary to those of the participants to obtain results. A researcher assists by participating in the design, planning, listening, synthesizing, observing, catalyzing, teaching and playing the role of a leader. They can inspire other participants to take charge and get motivated to perform action research process with enthusiasm. They assist in understanding the methodology and facilitate in the process. Outside action researchers helps in reflective analysis and with facilitation. They are charged with the responsibility of giving periodic and final reports of the action research.
Action research process
In line with O’Brien (1998, p. 1), the process of action research is viewed as cyclical in nature. The cycle begins with planning, action follows, then the results are observation and finally, the cycle is replicated. Another cycle begins following similar steps, until a real solution for the real problem is found.
Each cycle involves identification of a problem and collection of relevant data. The achievable solutions are considered and from a variety of choices. The most appropriate course is selected and executed. After implementation, the results are collected, making note of all outcomes and then the data is analyzed. Interpretation is carried on after the analysis to assess the success of the action. The problem is then visited and the cycle is repeated with an aim of attaining the real solution to the problem.
Action research is suitable for situations with real problems. The situation can be challenging and an appropriate question can be challenging to obtain solution. It is suitable for problems that accommodate flexibility require participant observation and when change is required. Those who need to make change in the way they undertake their practice and need social transformation can adopt action research. In education, the institution can adopt action research, if the methodological information to deal with the challenge is lacking and there is need for immediate change.
When selecting a method, the data to be collected should be relevant to the problem under investigation. It is important to familiarize with the method of data collection and the design and gain understanding of the strengths and the weaknesses of the method. The method should be acceptable to the other participants. Importantly, the method should not interrupt normal routine in the class or institution. Moreover, it should be clear how the success will be measured.
The process of action research design follow steps that begin with problem formulation, then data collection, data analysis, reporting the results and action plan.
- Problem formulation
When formulating a research question, the aim is to get a specific problem. The problem should be defined. When defining the question, it should be clear how it will be measured and the indicators to be used to confirm that the problem is solved. The problem can be defined by separating the issue from the variables affecting it. Select an approach suitable for solving the problem at hand. From the problem, state questions to be answered based on the issue or situation. Then name the problem as a question. Based on literature, review the validity of the question.
When formulating the question, name which is affected by the situation and why is the situation considered a problem and its significance. Indicate concerns that arise from the problem. Suggest possible causes of the problem and actions that may help solve the problem. The reasons and goals for solving the problems can be indicated.
- Data collection
According to Ferrance (2000, p. 10), data collection is an important part of action research process. In an education institution, data can be collected by reviewing tests, reports, port cards, sample of student work, performances, attendance, reports, projects, photos, focus groups, anecdotes, check list, questionnaires, memos, filed notes, audio and video tapes, diaries, portfolio, individual files, meeting logs, surveys, interviews and journals.
The data collection methods used depends on the nature of a problem that is to be resolved. The system of collection can be discussed before collecting data. One should begin with the readily available data and move on to the challenging data collection. Around three or more types of data collection methods can be used to determine action in action research. The data should be arranged in a way that enable the participants make note of patterns and themes. The data should be organized. For instance, it can be arranged according to gender, institution and level of study age.
Southard (2006, p. 1) adds that, information collected should be credible. The data collected affects the quality of findings. Convincing information is required to give reliable results. The data should portray different points of view.
- Data analysis
Data analysis and identification of theme and common trends follow after data collection. The question guides the analysis and the participant make note of identifiable trends. Data can be analyzed using statistical methods or technical assistance. It can also be represented on a table. Opinions check lists are sometimes impossible to analyze, they can only be summarized and comments on themes and elements be made.
Action can be taken to implement changes based on findings from the data analysis. Information from the data analysis and from literature review should inform the design of the actions to be taken. Changes that will be made should be minimal. A single change is preferable to multiple changes. Multiple changes may cause instability and failure to the process. One change allows the participants to make note of the change that is responsible for specific outcomes.
Analysis should provide meaningful information from the collected data. It is necessary to anticipate new understanding of the situation from the data analysis.
- Report the results
Participation in the research makes the participants gain from the process. The report provides understanding of the situation from different researchers. Each researcher gives their report in the process. The information which is obtained from the findings is learnt.
After the implementation of actions, results are to be taken, to assess the success or failure of the intervention. Evidence should be available to support any improvements or failure. In the case of failure, another course should be considered to improve the situation.
- Action planning.
Action plan means that the solutions based on the findings can be implemented. Implementing requires change of the existing strategy to new strategy. The action requires support from participants and authorities. One could introduce a project where a specific change is introduced at a time.
Action plan enables participants to do research as they implement action and observe changes while collecting data. As they practice research, they encounter other problems which may as well be considered in the solutions. At the end of the cyclical research, the participants are able to answer who, why, what, where and how the issue has affected a given subject of study.
Gabel (1995, p. 1) mentions that action research upholds communication. All participants share information and the researchers are not controlled in their process. They collectively meet to understand the meaning of the collected data and come up with appropriate interventions from the discussions. Reflection is highly regarded as the participants are not interfered with by the researcher. They analyze the data collectively and make fair contributions.
Action research possesses the following principles. Reflexive critique, which encourages revelation of on the process and problems eradicating biases, assumptions, commonly held interpretation and concerns held. To obtain factual information, the use of official documents, transcripts, description of a situation and notes are used to make accurate account of a situation and to formulate a theory. Collaborative resources ensure that all have an equal chance of participating in the research process. Researchers partner in research. The structure of action research advocates for: multiplicity of accounts, ideas from participants, diverse interpretation and a variety of choices for action. A report represents a discussion, rather than a conclusion. An understanding of language is necessary. The participants need to be familiar with the dialects to be able to tap information in the social reality. The problem and its context should be understood. Changes, when implementing action, may cause risk to existing practices. Theory informs the action research process.
There are various research tools that are used in action research. They include: collecting documents and analyzing the information, the participants observe and record, structured interviews, unstructured interviews, questionnaire survey, case studies and writing research journals.
Moutz et al (2008, p. 221) argue that action research involves participation that enable participants communicate during the process of research. The research design opens an avenue for the community and authorities to be able to make relevant contributions to the process. They can be involved in the planning, data analysis and implementation process.
When conducting action research the researcher should observe certain ethics. The researcher should maintain confidentiality. He should assure those involved in the research that they will preserve confidentiality and follow the principle. The ideology guiding research should be shared with the relevant variable. Participant, authorities, committees and relevant people need to be informed on the objectives of the research and they give consent. Every participant’s contribution should be considered. Those who are not comfortable sharing information or participating should be granted their wish. As the research progress, developed work should be available and accommodate suggestions. The consent for documented works to be used in the study should be considered. Before publishing, it is necessary to consider cooperation with others, who have made descriptive works.
During the research, decision making on results of the research are to be a corporate action. The researchers should avoid having biases and personal interests in the research. The progress and data generated from the research should be available to the participants. All participants should be granted an equal opportunity to add to the research process.
Shortcomings of Action Research.
Action research has shortcomings. It has been argued that participants, like in the case of teachers, may have biases while making observation and assessing the data. They may have own interest in the party hence, the process may fail to be accurate. The teacher may have to work within their working hours as their schedule demand and conduct the research while teaching and do research in hurry. Findings in a research that cannot be generalized are viewed as an individual’s conclusion.
Action research methodology is an examination of a specific issue experienced by people. The methodology seeks to obtain specific solutions to the relevant problem. The people conducting research become researchers and make contributions by implementing, collecting and analyzing data, being reflexive and communicating in the process. Action research can be conducted by an individual, a group, or a school. Sometimes, a researcher, who is not part of the profession, is invited to collaborate with other participants. The process of action research is cyclic. It includes planning, action, observation and then reflection. In the cycle the problem is defined, and then the data is collected using appropriate methods relevant to the problem. Data is analyzed to provide meaning and to reveal themes. The report from the analysis is revealed and an appropriate action is taken. The cycle is repeated if the intervention does not provide a lasting solution. The cycle is repeated until a suitable solution is obtained. Action research upholds communication, reflexive technique, collaborative resources, and a structure that allow multiplicity of ideas. In action research, reports provide a discussion rather than a conclusion, require dialectical understanding and are informed by theory. A participant can use literature to analyze, observe and record findings, use questionnaires survey, use case study and write research journal. Ethics are to be followed where confidentiality is upheld. The participants should get consent to conduct research and consider equality in the access to developed data. Action research is criticized for not generalizing and being conducted by participants who have a challenge of time. The participant may have a challenge to have personal interest in the process and introduce bias. However, action research is effective in developing solutions for specific problems.
- Ferrance, E. (2000). Action research.
- Gabel, D. (1995). An introduction to action research.
- Hendricks, C. C. (2008) Improving Schools Through Action Research: A Comprehensive Guide for Educators. Needham Heights: Ally and Bacon.
- Moutz, A. Moore, E. B. and Brown, L. (2008). Participatory Action Research as Pedagogy: 2 Boundaries in Syracuse. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 7 , 2, 214-238.
- O’Brien, R. (1998). An overview of methodological approach of Action Research. Web.
- Southard, M. (2006). What is the action research process?
- Stringer, E. T. (2007). Action Research. Los Angeles: Sage Publications Inc.