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Page history last edited by sallyng@csupomona.edu 11 years, 2 months ago

Action Research-The Basics

Action research is a process of solving a problem by those affected by the problem known as participants.  Action research focuses on the action of individuals or teams directly participating in a problem.  Problem solvers follow a cyclical process of making decisions, taking action, and examining the effects of the action to enable further decisions, and take subsequent actions which will then be studied and so on and so forth (Wikipedia, 2009).  Although this bears some resemblance to inquiry-based learning, action research has a somewhat more proactive direct approach focused on problem solving rather than simply on investigation.


Action research is an alternative to traditional “disinterested” academic research where the researcher should be an outside observer and have no effect on what is being studied.  Rather, action research is interested in bringing about change in the system and situation being studied (Action Research, 2009).










Center to Periphery


Action Research in Industry

Action research is applied not only in the educational field but technical and sociology fields as well.  Ryder (1997) documented the development of a shared database of technical support information within a company and used action research as the methodological model.  Anytime a group of people collects a body of knowledge to create a bank of best practices which can be accessed, analyzed, improved, and implemented we can say that action research is taking place.  Ryder's description of the process of creating the COSS knowledge makes it clear how the involved members of an organization are often the best ones to decide on the problems and solutions.


Action Research in Education

Applied to the teaching field, action research is a way for teachers to critically examine their practice and work to make improvements therein.  A popular practice in the professional development side of education is the implementation of “professional learning communities” or PLC’s (Dufour, 2004).  These groups of teachers are intended to meet to discuss their individual and or team practices in an attempt to collaborate on, discover, and implement best practices for their community of learners (Bradley-Levine, 2009).  PLC’s would be a suitable situation to implement action learning because the actual participants in the classroom learning community are studying their own work, making decisions to modify practice and taking action.


Aside from teachers making improvements within their own teaching methods, it is also a mode for teachers to provide a participatory type of learning for their students. For example, Seitz, a professor of Poltical Science in South Carolina used this method to give students a better sense of the justice system (Seitz, 1994). His article, "Now That Was a Good Class," explains the outcome of student performance on paper topics after requiring the students to attend a court hearing. Prior to the student's attendance of the hearing, Seitz had lectured on civil justice with the students which resulted in a poor class discussion regarding the meaning of justice. With the real-life experience of a local court hearing, however, student participation greatly improved on the topic as the professor observed a higher level of motivation among the students.


One San Francisco teacher, Heather Rothaus, used Action Research to improve standards-based test scores in her 4th grade class. According to her video interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rtq9jK_OxwQ), she says that student confident levels and coinciding test scores improved as students created and deconstructed test questions on their own. 



An Example of Implementation

Madison Metropolitan School District has a vibrant action research program for professional development.  Their website has a nuts and bolts description of implementation of action research on a district-wide level. Classroom Action Research-MMSD


Action Research in Society

One technique for action research is participatory video pioneered by Don Snowden.  Using this technique, Snowden interviewed members of different communities on the Canadian island of Fogo.  Although the communities were on the same island, little communication or cooperation existed between them.  After members of different communities watched each others’ videos they began to realize their shared needs and opinions.  Snowden took these interviews to the Canadian government to address islander grievances who in turn were interviewed on film in reply.  Through the process the island and country were able to work through a number of differences in opinion.  Snowden was later asked to facilitate the partipatory video process with other Canadian communities as well as in other communities around the world (Odame, 2008).




Action research - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2009). Retrieved May 7, 2009, from          


Bradley-Levine, J., Smith, J., & Carr, K. (2009). The Role of Action Research in Empowering Teachers to Change

     Their Practice. Journal of Ethnographic and Qualitative Research, 3(3), 152-61. Retrieved 7 May 2009, from      OmniFile Full Text Mega database.

Classroom Action Research Home Page. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2009,      from http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/sod/car/carhomepage.html

DuFour, R. (2004). What Is a "Professional Learning Community"?. Educational Leadership, 61(8), 6-11. Retrieved

     May 7 2009, from OmniFile Full Text Mega database.

Odame, H. H. (2008, February 7). The Snowden Program - About Don Snowden. Retrieved May 7, 2009, from


Ryder, M. (1997). Center to Periphery: aera_97. Retrieved May 7, 2009, from


SAGE journal: Action Research, SAGE the natural home for authors, editors and societies.. (n.d.). Retrieved

     May 7, 2009, from http://www.uk.sagepub.com/journalsProdDesc.nav?prodId=Journal201642

San Francisco Education Fund (2008). Heather Rothaus, SF Education Fund's Teacher Action Research. Retrieved

     May 15, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rtq9jK_OxwQ

Seitz, John L. (1994, March). Now That Was A Good Class: learning about politics by observing local 

     government. PS: Political Science & Politics. 27(n1) 71-72. Retrieved May 14, 2009,      from http://ucerc.edu/teacherresearch/muhsdar0510-99.html


Comments (2)

cchavez@csupomona.edu said

at 8:47 am on May 9, 2009

Made some comments in [ ] regarding APA citations. Do you want me to correct? Formatted the images with 5 pixels horizontally and vertically, aligned left. Don't know if that is what you want, but I think it makes it look better. The heading Works Cited is MLA language. The term used in APA is References.

I am not sure if I should make the edits or tell you about them. I am good either way, so let me know.


sallyng@csupomona.edu said

at 9:44 pm on May 17, 2009

Hi Cliff,
I added 2 more paragraphs to the Action Research in Education section. I also added a youtube video so there are two additional resources to this wiki: one is from an article and the other is a link to the youtube video. Hope that helps!

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