What is Action Research?
Action research is a process teachers can use to examine their own practices. This can be done on an individual level, as a collaborative effort with a cohort of teachers, school-wide or at a district level involving the entire school. This process is used to evaluate a problem or to improve upon an already existing system/ method. It is research that is “done with in the context of the teachers environment.”(Waters-Adams 1)It is a study or “investigation that does not separate the investigation from the action needed to solve the problem.” (Waters-Adams 7) The process was developed through the 1940s in the United States and had a cyclical approach instead of a linear one.
- Identify problem area
- Collect data and organize it
- Interpret data
- Act on the collected data
- Reflect on the actions taken
These steps are repeated for a continual reflection and assessment of the “problem area”.
Within this process there are other benefits. One is the empowerment of the participants. As a teacher participating in action research you begin to see that you have the capability to change things and be part of a solution in not just a classroom level but a larger level too. This process also promotes collaboration. Even when preparing to do research in my own class I have collaborated with other teachers that work with the students involved in my classroom issue. Teachers can also gain knowledge through this process adding to their “bag of tricks” for future use as well as working knowledge on how to solve your own issues. Then there is social change. Looking at this in a larger spectrum through acting on school or district issues we can see that we can have an effect on social change in our school or district.
Reflecting on this I feel that as teachers we do this more often than we think. It may just be less formal than what is being described. As we go through a lesson we are making notes mentally about what worked and what didn’t. Now we are taking it to a more formal level gathering data and interpreting it, acting on it and reflecting. I have one issue that has presented itself in my class that I am thinking will work nicely for this type of research. I have already started to collaborate with the Special Education teacher about the steps we will take and what it will look like in my class. Depending on the outcome we may be using the results as a guideline for other subject areas that the student is involved in and how this routine may work for those subjects as well.
NCTM, (2012), How is Action Research Defined? Retrieved from
Ferrance, E., (2000) Themes in Education Action Research. Retrieved from
Waters-Adams, S., (2006)Action Research in Education. Retrieved from