Action research is a disciplined process of inquiry taken by teachers as researchers of their own practice. As Carr and Kemmis defines;
“Action research is simply a form of self-reflective inquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own practices, their understanding of these practices, and the situations in which the practices are carried out”
(Carr and Kemmis 1986: 162).
Action research is closely tied to self-reflection and reflective practice. Kurt Lewin is the person who coined the term ‘action research’.
Kurt Lewin’s cycle of reflection
- Identify a problem area:
Finding out about the situation that is required, a starting point. Usually, teachers have several questions they wish to investigate but it’s always better to limit the questions to a doable category. The questions should be in higher-order, stated in common language, be concise and meaningful.
- Gather data:
Data collection is an important step in deciding what actions need to be taken. Data collection vehicles used are interviews, portfolios, audiotapes, photos, memos, questionnaires, focus groups, journals, case studies and surveys, etc.
The selection of vehicles in data collection depends on the organisation of data to identify themes and trends.
- Interpret data:
Analyse and identify major themes and depending on the questions identified and gathered select data groups such as classroom, group and individual data.
- Acting on evidence:
Here your focus is to design a plan of action that allows for change using the information from the data collected and reviewed.
- Evaluating results:
Lastly, determine if any improvement has occurred as a result of the action plan. If the results are not satisfactory we move to identify a problem area to elicit better results.
Benefits of action research
The use of action research to deepen and develop classroom practice has grown into a strong tradition of practice. Teachers often look for ways to expand upon their existing knowledge. Research and reflection allow teachers to gain confidence in their work. It influences thinking skills, effective communication and a positive attitude towards change. It also helps teachers learn about themselves and their students to determine ways to improve continually.
Limitations of action research
As action research involves a process of systematic inquiry where educators can utilise the knowledge and results to improve educational practices but it is purely cyclical in nature. This may be a point of concern for the reliability and nature of inquiry of action research whether or not it fits into the current problem at hand. It follows a more step-by-step approach where the conclusion is drawn if the analysis reflects on a suitable solution and plan of action to improve practice. And the practice continues unless the problem is identified and objectives are met.
Action research can serve as a chance for teachers to reflect on their own practice in a structural manner. The focus is on students, educators can also investigate what effect their teaching can have on the students and how they can work with other teachers to bring changes to current methods for the betterment of the school. It is an attempt to ‘fix’ own practice and understand better.