Action research, in my own understanding, is the gathering and analysis of information in order to develop a plan of action to correct a discovered deficiency. In the classroom this can focus on various facets such as teaching methodology or curriculum. Where do we as teachers fall short in our technique? Where does a certain curriculum fail to live up to the standards? Action research can be used to identify and analyze problems in the classroom such as these with the end goal of developing a process for correction. The process for action research is broken down into five steps. They are: Problem identification, plan of action, data collection, analysis of data, and a plan for future action.
My simple explanation could never take the place of expert opinion. I’ll start with Sharan Merriam (2009), who asserts that research in general is the inquiry or investigation into something in a systematic manner. She follows this up with a more narrow treatment of action research, which has the “goal to address a specific problem within a specific setting, such as a classroom, a workplace, a program, or an organization.” This is not necessarily for the experts only, but for anyone interested in improving something.
For our particular interest in the subjects let me shift the focus to the classroom. A by-product of action research conducted in the classroom is the impact it has on teachers and their students. The transformation takes on positive qualities when teachers take an honest, objective look at their own practices. Action research according to Rogers et al. (2007) involves the teacher studying their own teaching to arrive at critical reflection and provides the platform to go beyond this reflection. The individual student is drawn into the picture when we realize that action research more often than not helps the teacher gain a better understanding of the student as a learner.
Merriam, S. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Rogers, D., Bolick, C., Anderson, A., Gordon, E., Manfra, M., & Yow, J. (2007). “It’s about the Kids”: Transforming Teacher-Student Relationships through Action Research. Clearing House, 80(5), 217-222.