Education :: Action Research

By: S. Tombi Singh *

Teacher or Principal Questions

As teachers or administrators working in schools today, we are confronted on a daily basis with a myriad of questions, issues, concerns, and problems dealing with children, parents, curriculum and resources. Here are some of the questions that we as educators often ask today:

  • How can I get these kids to enjoy learning?
  • What can I do to make handicapped children feel part of my class?
  • How might we work together better as a staff to establish such things as school objectives, philosophy, and budget priorities?
  • How can I make my classroom more interesting for students?
  • How might we conduct teacher evaluation processes in this school in ways that will improve teaching and learning?
  • How can I encourage more parental support for what does on in the classroom?
  • How can I adapt an already demanding curriculum to better meet the specific needs of the students in my class?

Sometimes, our ways of dealing with these challenges are successful, and we feel we have improved our educational situation. At other times, some of these difficulties seem insurmountable. Problems seem to defy solution; issues remain; questions seem to have no answers. We feel like we are fighting an up-hill battle, and we're not sure that we're winning, or even 'holding our own.'

This paper has been specifically developed for the trainees of Kanan Devi Memorial College of Education, Pangei, the educator working at the school level, as a resource to use in your efforts to both improve and to better understand your educational practice. It is designed to assist you in your search for answers to your questions regarding how to make fife in schools better for teachers and for students through the use of ACTION RESEARCH.

How is Action Research Defined?
Action Research is a three-step spiral process of
(1) planning which involves reconnaissance;
(2) taking actions; and
(3) fact-finding about the results of the action.

Kurt Lewin (1947)
Action Research is the process by which practitioners attempt to study their problems scientifically in order to guide, correct, and evaluate their decisions and actions.

Stephen Corey (1953)
Action Research in education is study conducted by colleagues in a school setting of the results of their activities to improve instruction.

Carl Glickman (1992)
Action Research is a fancy way of saying let’s study what’s happening at our school and decide how to make it a better place.

Emily Calhoun (1994)
What is Action Research?
Teachers 'act' all of the time. The teaching day is filled with teacher action: action with children; action with colleagues; action with parents. Yet, as we gain more experience and grow as teachers, how many of us fall into practices that are simply "habits'? How many of us do things in a certain way simply because we have always done things this way? How often do we really look at our teaching actions, and actively explore the possibilities that there may be better ways of acting, ways that may result in a better teaching situation for the teacher, and a better learning situation for the students in our classes?

The "research' often seems to conjure up images of long questionnaires to be completed by busy educators, or of people from the university trying to find out what teachers already seem to know. It can be viewed as a word of theory, not of daily-lived practice in schools.

Yet, upon closer examination, we as classroom teachers "conduct research" all of the time. We have a new student who is not doing well, so we call his or her former teacher for information that may be helpful - research. We are preparing for a parent-teacher interview, so we go over the student's work, test results, and standardized test scores to be better prepared for the interview - research. Examples of this type of "on-the-job research" in everyday teaching practice abound, and we soon realize that we could be far less effective without this kind of personal, practical information that we are able to obtain as a result of our "on-the-job research."

Action Research
Action research is a combination of both action and research. It is an attempt to understand our educational practices in a more complete way in order that we may act in ways that may bring about both improvement and understanding.
Action research is a form of self- reflective enquiry conducted by practitioners (teachers) in social situations (school) in order to improve their own social or educational practices, their understanding of these practices and the situations in which the practices are carried out.

What is action research then? First of all, action research is practical in orientation. It is an attempt to better understand and deal with the real life problems of classroom and school life.

Second, action research has action as its focus, not passive observation. It requires researchers (whether they are principals, teachers, or university staff) to become involved to reflectively act in ways that will most likely lead to improving the teaching practices in a particular classroom or an entire school. Third, action research is democratic. It encourages a much greater degree of talk and interaction between colleagues, inviting an active collaboration in a joint attempt to improve teaching.

AR of the participants become equal owners in the project, with rights regarding all of the decisions affecting both the means and the ends of the research. This notion may be one that school administrators, especially those accustomed to a more traditional, "Top down" model, could find especially difficult. However, when all members have equal power and work together as a team, their commitment to the success of the project and subsequent implementation of improvements is likely to be much greater. Fourth, action research is systematic and reflective.

As defined by Kemmis and McTaggart (1988), action research consists of four phases that take place in a cycle. These four phases are: planning, acting, observing and reflecting. Planning -all the members of the research team question 'what are' the realities of their particular practices, and begin to search for "what ought to be?"
Acting -the researchers implement the plan they have developed, addressing all or a particular set of problems.

Observing - simultaneous with action is the collection of data.
Observation is important for subsequent reflection and action.

Reflecting- the researchers reflect upon what is happening with their project, developing revised action plans based upon what they are learning from the process of planning, acting, and observing. Note how, after an initial round of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting a plan - based upon the information gained from the first round - is developed and implemented. The revised action plan can yield new questions and deeper insights into the area that we are exploring.

Through the continual process of planning, acting, observing, reflecting, and then developing a new action plan as a result of knowledge gained from the first cycle, action and research can work together to bring about democratic, systematic and reflective improvement in school life.

In action research, improvement and understanding of our educational practice are attempted simultaneously. 'Action research is a way to both understand and to improve an educational situation. There are other ways to define action research.

Action research is: "The study of a social (including educational) situation with a view to improving the quality of action within it" (Elliott, 1983).
Action research is: '...a form of collective self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own social or educational practices, as well as their understanding of these practices and the situations in which the practices are carried out' (Kemmis & McTaggart, 1988).

What Action Research Is?
  • Action research is a process, which improves education by change.
  • Action research is educators working together to improve their own practices.
  • Action research is developing reflection about our teaching.
  • Action research is collaborative, that is, it is educators talking and working with other educators in empowering relationships.
  • Action research is the establishment of self-critical communities of educators.
  • Action research is a systematic learning process.
  • Action research is a process that requires that we "test" our ideas about education.
  • Action research is open-minded.
  • Action research is keeping a personal journal about our teaching.
  • Action research is a political process.
  • Action research is a critical analysis of our places of work.
  • Action research is an emphasis on the particular.
  • Action research is a cycle of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting.
  • Action research is working in small groups of educators.
  • Action research is a justification of our teaching practices.
What Action Research Is Not?
  • Action research is not the usual thing that teachers do when thinking about teaching. It is more systematic and more collaborative.
  • Action research is not simply problem solving. It involves problem posing, the search for the questions beneath the questions that we typically ask about our educational practices.
  • Action research is not done 'to" other people. Action research is research by particular educators on their 'own' work, and it is done with the help of other practitioners.
  • Action research is not hierarchical, but rather is democratic. It is educators working together in relationships of equal ownership and influence regarding the action research project.
  • Action research is not a way to implement predetermined answers to educational questions. Action research explores, discovers, and works to create contextually specific solutions to educational problems.

Nature of Action Research:
- It is conducted by participants (not by outsiders) who are involved in the object of research (like teachers or teacher educators who are engaged in the act of teaching some of the aspects of which are being researched).
- It is carried out within the confines of the social situation in which the participants are functioning, i.e. in educational scenario such type of researches are conducted by the teachers within the school in which they are employed.
- The method in such type of research predominantly relies on self-reflection of the participant (researcher) rather than on rigorous statistical analysis.

Purposes of Action Research:
- To enable the participants (teachers/teacher-educators) to understand their practices.
- To enable the teachers/teacher-educators to assess the sphere of activity more objectively.
- To empower the teachers to improve their teaching practices by testing innovative ideas of their own.
- It is practical and directly relevant to an actual situation in the working world of teachers. The subjects are the students in the classroom, the staff, or others who are primarily involved in the school.
- It is flexible and adaptive, allowing changes during the trail period and sacrificing control in favour of responsiveness and on-the-spot experimentation and innovation.

Scope of Action Research:
While teaching, the teacher is confronted with several problems for which he/she dos not have any ready-made solutions. In the particular situation a befitting solution needs to be discovered by the teacher and hence he/she is led to conduct action research thereon. A classroom teacher in a particular solution faces such situations innumerable times during his course of teaching, which is quite different from problems faced by other teachers in their schools. Therefore to specify the scope of action research in a particular subject is not at all possible.

To refresh the trainees’ awareness, some probable areas of Action Research are given below:
(a) Understanding Students (Factors related to Students, Behaviour/Characteristics):
(i) Ascertaining the readiness for teaching a particular concept or principle in a particular subject.
(ii) Gender difference in interest towards a subject.
(iii) Reasons of shyness in the classroom for a subject
(iv) Causes of truancy (absenteeism) in a subject.
(v) Performance of children in a particular subject with or without private tuition.
(vi) Comparison of performance in a subject of normal children with those belonging to disadvantaged groups.
(b) Roles and Functions of Teachers (Factors related to teachers):
(i) Effect of incentives on the development of improvised aids in a particular subject.
(ii) Teachers’ problems in teaching a particular subject in primary/secondary/senior secondary schools.
(iii) Quality of teacher-pupil interaction and pupils’ interest in the learning of a subject.
(iv) Teachers’ personality and teacher-pupil interaction.
(v) Comparison of quality of interaction in classes of a particular subject taken by male and female teachers.
(vi) Teachers’ applying experience gained by them in in-service training in a particular subject.
(c) School climate/infrastructure (Factors related to school climate):
(i) Changing sitting order in classroom and span of attention in solving mathematics problems.
(ii) Effect of closed and open-air classrooms on increasing interest in a particular subject.
(iii) Changing time of mathematics period and interest of students in mathematics learning in the class.
(iv) Head teacher’s attitude towards the teaching of a particular subject and priority given to it in the curricular practices of he school.
(v) Variation in sitting arrangement in multigrade situation and its effect on pupils’ cognitive and effective characteristics of children.
(vi) Inter personal relationship among teachers in the school and its effect on the mathematics (or any other subject) classroom climate
(d) Curricular and Co curricular practices (Factors related to Curricular and Co curricular Practices):
(i) Management of classroom activities with children of wide ranging abilities.
(ii) Pupils’ performance on different types of test items on the same content areas of a particular subject.
(iii) Effects of peer teaching on the attainment of mastery learning.
(iv) Effects of different remedial measures in removing learning difficulties.
(v) Effect of time and types of reinforcement on achievement of concepts on a particular subject.
(vi) Examining effectiveness of teaching mathematics (or any subject) through induction method (or any other method).

1. The list is endless, as everyday a teacher can face new problem, which he/she never confronted earlier. Therefore the above areas are only suggestive and not exhaustive.
2. Every teacher trainee may prepare a list of ten problems that he/she has faced in the classroom. The problem can be investigated through action research. The same may be selected as a topic for action research.

Steps in Action Research:
The pattern of Action Research is described as stepwise process which involves the following steps:
(a) Identification of a problem area about which an individual or group wants to take some action.
(b) The selection of a specific problem and the formulation of a hypothesis that implies a goal and a procedure for teaching it.
(c) The careful recording of action taken and the accumulation of evidence to determine the degree to which the goal has been achieved.
(d) The influence from this evidence of generalization regarding the relation between the action and the desired goal, and
(e) The continuous retesting of these generalizations in other action situations.

It is considered important but not essential that action research must be cooperative in order to bring upon problem solving the power of group support and group effort.

Why Should You Do Action Research?
At this point, you may be asking yourself why should you bother to become involved in an action research project With all of the time and energy demands placed upon a teacher or a principal today, this is indeed a fair question.

Here are some reasons for you to consider action research:
· Action research deals with our questions and our problems, not someone else's.
· Action research starts now, that is, we can begin to use action research immediately.
· Action research has proven itself, time and time again, as one way in which educators such as ourselves can come to develop a better understanding, and thus improve, our educational practices.
· Action research can lead to better teaching and better learning.
· Action research helps us to build stronger collegial relationships with those with whom we work.
· Through action research we can gain a greater control over our own teaching practices.
· Action research helps us to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the ethics involved in education.
· Action research can break down some of the hierarchical barriers that can separate people in schools, such as principals and teachers.
· Action research will provide us with alternative ways of viewing and approaching our educational questions; with new ways of seeing our educational practices.
· Action research helps us to examine the 'habits' we have developed - what we are "really" doing in our teaching or in our administrative practices.
An Action Research Example
At first glance, action research would seem to be common sense. When confronted with problems or difficulties, we often make a plan, carry it through, and reflect on the results. However, action research is a little different from common sense. It involves going beyond the "problem in view" to try to understand why the problem appears to us in the way that it does. Perhaps the following example will serve to illustrate this point.

Gloria is confronted with a problem in her English class. She would like to have her grade 10 students spontaneously select more of their own writing topics. They seem willing enough to write on topics that she assigns. These are done well, but only when the students know they will be graded. Gloria has been to several workshops that have reinforced her belief that students should also be encouraged to find their own purposes and voices in writing. She would like this to happen in her classes. She begins to explore and to experiment with ways that students can be more actively involved in choosing what they will write. On the surface, Gloria's exploring and experimenting is no different from what many teachers do when confronted by a problem. The difference is that Gloria has decided to do this systematically using a process of collaborative action research. She feels that students will mistrust a blanket invitation to choose their own writing topics, since their previous writing has been assigned by the teacher for evaluation. No other teachers have particularly encouraged the students to find their own voices in their writing before.

Realizing that she is going to be breaking with an accepted practice, Gloria sees that she needs to do some thinking before inviting the students to choose their own topics for writing. So, she starts by thinking about why students do not already do this more naturally. It seems natural enough, so why are her students so reticent? She asks herself, 'What are the sources of this writing for marks?"

Gloria begins by recalling the writing assignments she has given since September. She finds that she has placed a lot of weight on the students learning the proper forms: the business letter, editorials, the short essay, and so forth. In October she agreed to cooperate with a social studies teacher on helping the students to write a research paper as a joint English and social studies assignment. The agreement was that as the English teacher she would mark for usage and appropriate format. The social studies teacher would grade the content.

Informal discussions with the students about their junior high experiences reveal that they had not been allowed to write on topics of their own choice then either. Through these conversations and reflecting on her own teaching, a uniform picture of "teacher directed writing": begins to emerge.

These preliminary thoughts enable Gloria to realize that there is a big distance between what she feels she values as a teacher about student writing, and her actual practice., 'How might I begin to narrow this gap?" she wonders.

Gloria decides to begin with small steps first. She begins by talking to the social studies teacher about her concern over the lack of student motivated writing. The social studies teacher is interested in the problem. In fact, he has his own related concern. He would like to have the students more actively involved in inquiry in the social studies. Both Gloria and her colleague agree to work together again - but this time they are working on a joint action research project instead of cooperating on an assignment.

The two teachers decide that in order to write about a topic of their choice, students need to have something worthwhile to say. As a first step, the social studies teacher agrees to generate potential writing topics by promoting discussion on controversial issues in his classroom. Gloria agrees to encourage students to write personal responses to the issue in any format they choose to be appropriate. The social studies teacher further agrees that he will get together with Gloria to talk about the result of this first attempt.

This example points to a number of features, which make this collaborative action research and not everyday problem solving. Some of these features include:
1. Two teachers have joined together around a common question.
2. The question is educational.
3. A preliminary reconnaissance was carried out in order to focus the question.
4. An action step has been decided upon based upon this preliminary reconnaissance.
5. The two teachers have agree to get together to discuss the results of their first action step.
6. This first cycle of thinking, acting, and reflection may turn into a full-fledged collaborative action research project as future cycles develop. It is this acting and reflecting together that makes this action research. Future cycles are up to the participants, but they might include: a) Gloria and her colleague may decide to introduce students to new writing formats, they may begin to encourage other expressive media. b) They may find that it is appropriate to include the students in the action research, getting them actively involved in the planning of different writing opportunities.

An Invitation
The intent of this document is to assist you whether you are a teacher, a school-based administrator, or working in your system's central office, in your efforts to make your school a better place for teachers and for students. If you are interested in such a project, if you have problems or concerns or questions about what is going on in your school or in your-classroom, then this document can be of assistance to you as you search for answers to your questions.

Preparing a Research Plan.
Once the problem for the research is finalized, the researcher must prepare a plan of action called “Research Proposal” with meticulous care.
A research proposal is a detailed description of a proposed study designed to investigate a given problem. It includes justification for the study, a detailed presentation of the research steps that will be followed in collecting and analyzing the required data and a projected time schedule for each major step. It may include proposed budget, if the investigator desires to seek external funding. A research proposal for an action research may be brief and informal, nevertheless it must be comprehensive.

Components of a Research Proposal
A research Proposal typically includes the following:
1. The Title of the study:
2. Introduction: Generally the rationale for undertaking the study is provided.
3. Statement of the Problem: The problem of the study with its delimitations is to be stated in detail.
4. Review of Related Literature: A brief review of related studies may be given so as to define the scope of the present study. But in case of action research this is not mandatory.
5. Objectives of the study: The objectives of the study should be stated in brief statement forms.
6. Statement of the Hypothesis: An hypothesis is a tentative solution/conclusion of a problem. Wherever possible, the statement of hypothesis is provided for giving direction to the study.
7. Method of Study:
The method of study includes:
(a) Subjects: The students or teachers over whom the study is being conducted. In action research, unlike formal research, sampling is not generally done. Available students or teachers are taken as subjects for study.
(b) Instruments: Tests, questionnaires, tasks or other tools that are to be used in the study need to be specified.
(c) Design: The description of the design indicates the basic structure of the study that needs to be stated in clear terms.
(d) Procedure: The detailed procedure of steps of conducting the study, the techniques to be used, data collection procedures, and resource supports for the study etc. should be studied in detail.
(e) Data Analysis: Description of statistical techniques to be employed for data analysis should be described.
(f) Time schedule: Time schedule includes the major activities or phases of the proposed study and a corresponding expected completion time for each activity.
(g) Budget: Budget includes expenses relating to development of tools, overhead costs, etc.

Research Report:
After completion of the data analysis and interpretation of the findings, the total exercise has to be consolidated in the form of a report. The report records all events of the study and is used to communicate the results to the readers. Documenting and disseminating are the two major purposes of the research report. There are different formats of writing reports. A general format helps wide range of readers for easy comprehension. The teacher educators should be aware of its relevance and help the researcher to develop the skill of writing such reports. The format generally followed, with slight variation here and there, is as follows:

· The Title: The report starts with a title. Generally the title given in the proposal is adhered to, with slight changes if it is absolutely required.
· The abstract: After the title, the abstract of the study is given in a paragraph. It contains a brief summary of the whole study i.e. the objectives, the subjects, the design and the expected results. In case of an action research, the length of the abstract should preferably be within 150-200 words.
· Statement of the Problem: The statement is meant to introduce the problem to the reader. A brief rationale, research questions, objectives or hypotheses and delimitations are briefly and clearly presented in this section.
Method: Under this method, the following points must be clearly stated:
(h) Subjects: The type and size of subjects taken are to be specified.
(i) Instruments: The tools and materials used in the study are to be briefly described.
(j) Procedure: The procedure followed in collecting and analyses of data are to be systematically presented. It must also include the design of the study.

· Results: The results of the study are discussed according to objectives or according to hypotheses accompanied with tables, graphics, figures, etc. in support of the results.
· Discussion: The results are then explained in terms of objectives or hypotheses explaining the circumstances in which this could happen and whether these corroborate or contradict other studies in the particular area. In action research, results and discussion are usually continued under one section.
· Suggestions and Recommendations: Based on the results, the implications of the study and its utility in solving related problems or improving the existing practices should be given which make the study comprehensive.
· References: Finally, the list of references used in the study is to be given at the end of the report, usually arranged alphabetically by the surname of the first or the sole author.

Corey, S. (1953). Action research to improve school practice. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University. Holly, P., & Southworth, G. (1990). The developing school. London: The Falmer Press.

Hopkins, D. (1985). A teachers guide to classroom research. Philadelphia:Open University Press.

Jacullo-Noto, J. (1992, April). Action research and school restructuring: The lessons learned. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.

Kemmis, S., & McTaggart, R. (1982). The action research planner. Victoria, Australia: Deakin University Press.

Rudduck, J. (1988). Changing the world of the classroom by understanding it: A review of some aspects of the work of Lawrence Stenhouse. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 4(1), 30-42. EJ 378 725

Street, L. (1986). Mathematics, teachers, and an action research course. In D. Hustler., T. Cassidy, & T. Cuff (Eds.). Action research in classroom and schools. London: Allen and Unwin. ***********

"The major problems of the world today can be solved only if we improve our understanding of human behavior" About Behaviorism
1904 - 1990

* S. Tombi Singh, is the present Principal for Kanan Devi Memorial College of Education, Pangei Imphal-East, Manipur
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  • Yaoshang with Governor : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Mei Thaba : Gallery
  • Saroi Khangba #3 : Gallery
  • Chirom Indira: Highest Civilian Honour
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  • March Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
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  • Cultural @ Republic Day #2 : Gallery
  • Festival of Colours to Sports Festival
  • Food Processing Training @Oinam : Gallery
  • Loree Kaju Luita Phanit #3 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Thabalgi Sen Khaiba #1 : Gallery
  • Lui-Ngai-ni Token Celebration at Chadong
  • Students @ Class X Exam #1 : Gallery
  • AoNna tEnaba :: Seireng
  • Thanga Keithel : Gallery
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • Temples of Manipur : Gallery
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  • Recipients of Akademi Awards for 2014
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic