Action Research in Education: Methods, Examples & Quiz

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Jessica McCallister

Action research is often used in the field of education. The following lesson provides two examples of action research in the field of education, methods of conducting action research and a quiz to assess your understanding of the topic.

We also recommend watching Rising Action in a Story: Definition, Examples & Quiz and What Is Action Research? - Executing Organizational Change

What Is Action Research?

There are many ways to conduct research. Each of these ways are used in various professional fields, including psychology, sociology, social work, medicine, nursing, education, and so on. However, the field of education often uses action research to explore topics of teaching, curriculum development, and student behavior in the classroom.

Action research is very popular in the field of education because there is always room for improvement when it comes to teaching and educating others. Sure, there are all types of methods of teaching in the classroom, but action research works very well because the cycle offers opportunity for continued reflection. In all professional fields, the goal of action research is to improve processes. Action research is also beneficial in areas of teaching practice that need to be explored or settings in which continued improvement is the focus.

The following image portrays the cycle of action research. As you can see, the process first starts with identifying a problem. Then you must devise a plan and implement the plan. This is the part of the process where the action is taking place. After you implement the plan, you will observe how the process is working or not working. Once you have had time to observe the situation then the entire process of action research is reflected upon. Perhaps, the whole process will start all over again! This is action research!

Diagram of Action Research Process
Action Research Diagram

Methods of Action Research

There are many methods to conducting action research. Some of the methods include:

  • Observing individuals or groups
  • Using audio and video tape recording
  • Using structured or semi-structured interviews
  • Taking field notes
  • Using analytic memoing
  • Using or taking photography
  • Distributing surveys or questionnaires

Researchers can also use more than one of the methods above to assist them in collecting rich and meaningful data.

While there are various methods to conducting action research, there are also various types of action research in the field of education, including individual action research, collaborative action research, and school-wide action research.

For example, individual action research involves working independently on a project, such as an elementary school teacher conducting her own, in-class research project with their students. Collaborative action research involves a group of teachers or researchers working together to explore a problem that might be present beyond a single classroom, perhaps at the departmental level or an entire grade level. School-wide action research generally focuses on issues present throughout an entire school or across the district. Teams of staff members would work together using school-wide action research. As you can see, action research can be used in many educational settings.

Examples of Action Research

Below are two examples of action research being used in the field of education. The first example discusses observation as being the method of choice for collecting data in the classroom. The second example discusses using surveys as the method of choice for collecting data. The cycle of action research is emphasized in each of the examples below.

Example #1 - - Observation (Individual Action Research)

Step 1: Identify the Problem

You are a 5th grade teacher and have identified a problem in your classroom. The problem is that your students do not have much experience working in task groups, and you believe that they need to have more opportunities to do so. You want to assess the skill set of your students and observe their overall approach to group work. By doing this, you feel that next time you offer group work, you will have some new insight into what works well and what needs improvement regarding conducting group work in your class.

Step 2: Devise a Plan

Your plan includes having your students work together in groups for their upcoming science project. By doing this, you hope to explore a variety of information, such as how the students brainstorm together, how they interact with each other, and how they distribute work among the task groups. You provide them an instruction sheet and a time frame to work from.

Step 3: Act to Implement a Plan

You act by assigning your students into groups and having them work through their science projects. This step can also be thought of as initiating and carrying out the plan.

Step 4: Observe

During this step of the action research process, you observe the groups of students working together. You take note on how they are progressing and what types of issues they are having, watch them brainstorm and form interesting ideas, and even observe some students not getting along, arguing, and not participating altogether. This is the observation and data collection phase.

Step 5: Reflect and Share

This final step is the end point of action research...however, it also might be the beginning! You have noticed that throughout the whole week of observing and watching your students work together, there were some things that just weren't working. You have also noticed some things that were working really well! Either way, this is the step where you determine if the plan needs to be observed again with some modifications or if the plan worked perfectly.

Example #2 - - Surveys (Collaborative Action Research)

Step 1: Identify the Problem

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