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Examples of Action Research

Click one of the articles listed below to be taken to the introduction of each study.

Mills, G. (2000). "Come to my web (site)," said the spider to the fly: Reflections on the life of a virtual professor.

Fagel, L., Swanson, P., Gorleski, J., & Senese, J. (2003). Emphasizing learning by deemphasizing grades. Highland Park High School.

Annice, C. (2003). The use of technology to enhance mathematics achievement. Billabong Elementary.

1. Mills, G. (2000). "Come to my web (site)," said the spider to the fly: Reflections on the life of a virtual professor.

In this example you can see the direct link between the data analysis and interpretation section and the action plan. Based on the researchers' findings, a plan of action is formulated. This is another form of "action" taken by the researcher to address the purpose of the study. In this case, the teacher researcher was interested in understanding the effectiveness of his current pedagogical practices and how best to meet the learning needs of his "virtual students." Based on the results of his action research study, the teacher researcher has stated the following four-prong approach to increasing student learning outcomes via Web-based courses.

Action Plan
Based on the themes that have emerged from this study, I plan to make the following changes in the future offerings of my Web-based, distance learning action research:

Final Thoughts
As I mentioned earlier, I am positively predisposed to distance learning modalities. I believe that it addresses issues of equity and access to education for all. This is particularly true at my university, which provides services to many teachers working in rural communities.
         However, with spiraling tuition costs, many of these teachers also question whether or not they are getting "value for money" when they choose to learn in isolation. Do equity and access equal good pedagogy? How is it that online courses maintain the integrity of a graduate education? What characteristics distinguish an online course from a correspondence course? This study has raised more questions for me than it has answered. I am challenged by the opportunities that current distance learning modalities offer and strive to balance issues of equity and access against quality. Ultimately, perhaps, the responsibility for choosing to learn via an online environment rests with the learner. Similarly, the responsibility for overcoming some of the inherent problems associated with teaching in an online environment must rest with the teacher. Through the implementation of an action research approach, I have reflected on the limitations of teaching in a Web-based environment and am committed to address them in future class offerings.

2. Fagel, L., Swanson, P., Gorleski, J., & Senese, J. (2003). Emphasizing learning by deemphasizing grades. Highland Park High School.

As illustrated by this example, the results of a study often leave the teacher researcher with more questions than when they started. This is not uncommon and illustrates that action research is cyclical rather than linear (with a beginning and endpoint.) The action research plan is to continue investigating the many questions that have emerged from the current study. The teacher researchers in this example cite the importance of conducting action research as related to building a learning community among colleagues, taking risks in teaching, and professional development. They have made a commitment to continue their action research study.

The Study
By far the most rewarding part of working on an action research team was the opportunity to learn and grow with a small group of teacher colleagues. This experience of mutual commitment provided a wonderful staff development experience; by working with these colleagues consistently throughout the year, we were able to explore new ideas and take risks in the classroom with a type of "safety net" in place. For that reason alone, as well as our desire to explore the new questions and challenges raised by our research, we will continue to conduct action research into the effectiveness of our teaching and grading practices.
         Giving up grading practices and beliefs that we have held for years can be a very scary proposition. It is not always easy to turn over some of our control to others. Perhaps our first action research steps need to be "baby steps." This action research project freed us from the grading merry-go-round and provided a new way to address assessment issues. By taking these steps, we were able to devote less time to pencil pushing and calculator crunching and to spend more time with our most important job: helping our students reach their full potential as we strive to reach our full potential as teachers.

3. Annice, C. (2003). The use of technology to enhance mathematics achievement. Billabong Elementary.

In this example the researchers are faced with an ethical dilemma. The results of their action research study do not reflect a favorable light on their school and teachers. They are faced with deciding how to improve students' math achievement without hurting teachers and the principal in the process. To address this dilemma the research team's action plan took a "hold harmless" approach to sharing the findings of the study. They shared the general findings to the faculty and then "invited" teachers to meet with them individually to discuss the data regarding their own classrooms.

The Dilemma
The findings of our schoolwide action research effort raised some difficult ethical dilemmas for the action research team:

  1. What do we do with the data that provided a negative picture of individual teachers in the school? Do we share data on an individual basis with teachers who were singled out by students? What risks do we run in sharing this information? How can we promote professional development without hurting anyone?
  2. What do we do with the data that indicated a great deal of dissatisfaction with how the principal had mandated the choice of curriculum? Do we risk alienating the teachers from the administration? Could some teachers be hurt professionally by action the principal might take?
  3. How can we improve student achievement through the use of technology without hurting teachers (and the principal) in the process?

         The action research team decided to adopt a "hold harmless" approach to dealing with the findings of the study. We shared the general findings of the study with teachers at a faculty meeting and invited teachers, on a voluntary basis, to meet with us to discuss the data for their classrooms. Similarly, we invited the principal to meet with us to discuss implications of the findings for future professional development opportunities.

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