Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Embedding Professional Learning Through Action Research

This article was originally published in the October issue of Direct Connection (Learning Forward Kansas) Talking Points: How do you see collaborative action research being used to bring about improvement/change in your district, school and/or classroom? Why is collaborative action research an effective tool for bringing about desired change?

Embedding Professional Learning Through Action Research
Penny Schuckman, Director of the Learning Center, USD 261 Haysville

Is there anything you would like to change about your district, your school, your classroom or yourself?  If you answered yes, then Action Research is an effective tool you can add to your toolbox to bring about that change you desire!

What? Action Research is studying your own situation to change the quality of processes and results within it.  To do Action Research is to empower yourself to study your action so that your future actions will be more effective.

Why? Do Action Research because it is……..
Practical – Insights that you get from data lead to practical changes in your classroom or in your school during and immediately after the inquiry.
Collaborative – As action researchers, you and your students or you and your colleagues collect data about a real issue in your shared situation.
Empowering – All of you together can influence and contribute equally to the research.

How? Collaborative Action Research has five sequential steps:
Problem Formulation – The team identifies the issue that is of the greatest professional concern.  Researchers identify what they already know about the issue, what they still need to know about it, and their understanding of the variables affecting the issue.
Data Collection – The credibility of any research effort lives or dies on the quality of the data used to support its conclusions.  To ensure adequate data collection, action researchers and their colleagues are expected to assemble three sets of data for each research question.
Data Analysis – Most action researchers find this step to be the most enjoyable of the entire process.  It involves looking systematically at all the data collected to see what trends or patterns emerge and what conclusions can be drawn.
Reporting Results – Inviting others to peer over our shoulders and learn from our practice is one of the most powerful and rewarding aspects of collaborative action research.  It is imperative that teams of action researchers find as many appropriate forums as possible to share what they are learning about teaching and learning.
Action Planning – Since the purpose of collaborative Action Research is to improve our professional practice, the process won’t be complete until we have put in place plans incorporating what we’ve learned as a result of our systematic inquiry. 

 I need to conclude this article with a warning.  Action Research is addictive!  As you begin to see your district, school, classroom, students and self change for the better, you will be compelled to repeat the process.  Enjoy your Action Research journey !

Sagor, R. (1992). How To Conduct Collaborative Action Research. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Schmuck, R. A. (2006). Practical Action Research For Change. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, Inc.
http://arj.sagepub.com/  An online Action Research Journal

http://cadres.pepperdine.edu/ar/c9/burker/ar-blog.html A blog of one teacher’s Action Research journey

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg83f72_6Gw Video of the Action Research Process


  1. Action research is a valuable tool that can bring about change. We have used it at the school level to ensure that our greatest academic deficiencies are addressed. The data doesn't lie.

  2. Please share your action research journey with us! What issues are you trying to solve in your districts and what strategies are you trying?