Action Research 101: Research as Teaching Practice

Welcome, everyone, to the REL Pacific webinar, “Action Research 101: Research as Teaching Practice.” Thank you for joining us today. I’m Kirsten Miller, a Communications Manager here at REL Pacific, and I’ll be your facilitator. In just a few moments, I’ll be turning this over to our presenter, Dr. Geoffrey Mills, but first, let’s start out with some tech tips, our agenda and goals for the day, and a little bit of information about the Pacific region. If you joined via telephone please enter
your audio pin on the control panel in the audio section. I will be muting everyone to avoid the echo, but you’re free to ask questions at any time, using the questions and chat box. We will have a question and answer session at the end of the webinar. And please also familiarize yourself with
the control panel tools, such as the questions and chat box, which you can use to answer the questions we’ll be posing and to send in those questions for the end of the webinar. We are recording this session so this will be made available to you after the webinar is completed. Before we begin the presentation, please take note of the link on your screen. This is a
link to a short survey regarding the webinar, and your feedback is really vital to ensuring
that we provide the most useful and meaningful events for our participants going forward. We’ll also post that link in the comments and questions box, so that’ll be a live link that you
can go to to complete the survey at the end of the webinar. Our agenda today: again, I’m Kirsten Miller. We are in the welcome, goals, and context section of our agenda right now. That will be followed by our presentation by Dr. Geoff Mills, who’s a professor of education at Southern Oregon University and he’ll be talking about the origin and foundation, goals and rationale, and the four steps of the action research process. We’ll conclude that with a question and answer session and we’ll wrap up and will again push out that live survey link. Our goals for today are for you to be able at the end of this webinar to define action research, understand the steps in the action research process, describe a possible area of focus for your own research, and consider any ethical concerns involved in your own research in the classroom. Finally, you know, to tailor our presentations to
your specific needs we’d really love to know what your role is in the education field. So I’m going to launch a little poll here; it should be coming out
to you now and please just go ahead and choose your role. And if your role doesn’t show up here,
feel free to go ahead and add that into the questions and chat box so we can determine how better to tailor this presentation to your specific needs. Looks like, you know, the results that are coming in now, looks like we have a pretty high percentage of researchers and evaluators, that’s at 78 percent
and I mean you’re right now. That’s actually in flux; we’ve got 40 percent teachers and about 60
percent researchers and evaluators. I’m going to leave that open for just one more second and then I’ll go ahead and close that and that should then show you the results there. So before I hand the microphone over to Dr. Mills, I’d like to show you an introductory video feature on REL Pacific, and if you’re not already familiar with the REL program or with education across the Pacific region, this three-minute feature will give you a good overview of our work in the region. It’s also available on our YouTube account which
is, RELPacific: McREL’s Pacific Center for Changing the Odds, so you can go ahead and access it there also. Just bear with me for one moment while I pull this up. REL Pacific at McREL International is
one of ten regional educational laboratories, often referred to as RELs. The RELs are
funded by the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. We serve education stakeholders in three US
Pacific territories, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the
Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam, as well as three nations in
free association with the United States: the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the
Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia,
which includes the four states of Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap. We also serve the state of Hawaii. At REL Pacific, we identify priority needs in the region through comprehensive reviews of education system data and reports, ongoing discussions with education
agency staff, and continual contact with the field. We
also support consortia, called research alliances, that bring together stakeholders in the Pacific to work collaboratively to address problems and questions of high
priority and relevance in the field of education. Our work focuses
on four priority topic areas: strengthening teacher effectiveness,
engaging families and communities in education, ensuring college and career readiness,
and optimizing data systems. REL Pacific is housed at McREL
International’s Pacific Center for Changing the Odds in Honolulu, Hawaii. We are a private, non-profit organization that draws upon the best of education
research to translate what works into culturally
conscious innovations that benefit learners
throughout the Pacific. The REL Pacific region is
geographically vast. The region served by REL Pacific covers
five time zones and more than 1000 islands, islets, and
atolls. The region is mostly rural and spans a
geographic area larger than the entirety of the continental United States.
Although all seven of the major entities served by REL Pacific use English as the language of instruction,
five of those seven also instruct in an indigenous language,
such as Chamorro, Marshallese, Palauan, Chuukese, Yapese, Pohnpeian, Kosraean, Samoan, or Hawaiian. For more information
on REL Pacific, please visit our website, and sign up for our newsletter for
updates on projects, events, and news. So now that you’re a little more familiar with REL Pacific, I’d like to introduce you to our presenter, Dr. Geoffrey Mills. Dr. Mills is a professor of education at Southern Oregon University and author of Action Research: A Guide for the Teacher Researcher. Dr. Mills has presented on action research in Australia, New Zealand, extensively in Greenland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and across the United States. He’s also a coauthor of Education Research Competencies for Analysis and Applications, now in its tenth edition. Without further ado, here’s Dr. Mills. Again, bear with us for just a moment while I hand the screen over to Dr. Mills. And when you’re ready, go ahead and take it away! Ok. All right, hopefully this is working and everyone can see my screen. Good morning, good afternoon, where ever
you are. My name’s Geoff Mills, as Kirsten has just introduced me. I’d
like to take a moment to thank Kirsten for her work in setting up this webinar. I’d also like to thank Dr. Nolan Malone,
the director of McREL’s Pacific Center for Changing the Odds, for his support in this work. I’m in the comfort
of my office here at Southern Oregon University.
I didn’t think I’d be nervous presenting to people who can’t see me or I can’t see you but hopefully in this audio-based only session we can make some progress
towards our goals today of defining action research, understanding
the process, and so on and so forth. As you may have guessed my accent is is from the deep south; I’m an Australian
but I’ve lived and worked in the United States for thirty years and as Kirsten just mentioned I have been engaged in action research work for
quite some time, most recently in Greenland, which is perhaps the
polar, literally the polar opposite of where you
might be. My work in Greenland is focused on helping
teachers and principals use action research as a way of developing and
testing culturally responsive pedagogies and curriculum in a post-colonial Greenland. My work today has been somewhat fueled and helped by the work that came out of Kekahio and
Bakers’ Five Steps for Structuring Data-Informed Conversations and Action in Education, an IES publication in September of last
year. So, without any other pauses, let’s get launched into kinda my
view of “what is action research?” Well as you can see, for me, action research is any systematic
inquiry conducted by teacher researchers,
principals, school counselors, or other stakeholders in the teaching learning environment to
gather information about how their particular schools operate, how
they teach, and how well their students learn. That’s
my working definition and it’s built on a lot of people who’ve done a lot of work in this
area over many many years. To quote Edelman, it’s ordinary people
participating in collective research on private troubles that they have in
common. The characteristics of action research, well, for me it’s very much a a democratic
process that focuses on the professionalization of
teaching with the commitment to helping teachers conduct research by themselves for
themselves, and to help them gain insights into the
challenges in the classrooms, perhaps, to develop a reflective practice and stance to affect positive
change in the school environment and to improve student outcomes. Action research, as I write about it, has been heavily influenced by really two
main theories, what we would call critical action research and a practical action research
approach. Both have a common goal, to improve teaching and learning. Critical action research, also known as
emancipatory action research, is based on critical theory with
the goal of liberation through knowledge gathering. It’s participatory and democratic, socially responsive and contextually
based, it examines professional practice and is
intended to enhance learning, teaching, and policy-making. When I talk about teacher research,
practitioner-based research, I’m also talking about all stakeholders in the educational
enterprise. When I write about action research, I
tend to write from a very practical-oriented
approach, so it’s practice based; it’s an
emphasis on how to conduct action research. It’s a commitment to the professional
development of teachers and school improvement. It’s focus on teacher researchers who choose their
own area of focus and the necessary data collection
techniques, analysis and interpretation strategies, and the action plans that follow. It’s an
engaging process. So, what we’d like you do is to spend a couple of minutes thinking about-I see
that that a third of us are teachers and two thirds are and two thirds
are researchers and evaluators, but if you were to think about a practice in your own professional world that you perhaps take for granted, that
you’re challenged by, if you write in the comments and question
box, anything that comes to mind, and
if I think about beginning teachers, for example, you know
most beginning teachers are concerned with classroom management issues, but as an administrator perhaps you might be concerned with how to reduce dropout in your school. So if you take a moment to complete the poll. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing it in the dialogue box, so I’ll continue. One of the empowering things about conducting
action research is that it bridges the gap between research and
practice. Teachers will often say that, you know,
researchers aren’t accessible to them, it’s not written to them as an audience. Principals will say the same. They’ll say the available research
is not always relevant to their practice or considered
persuasive ao authoritative. And it doesn’t really address the frequent
changes in education systems and programs that creates this disconnect between research and practice. So, some of the great benefits of action research and if you are familiar with the work of Marzano, Waters, & McNulty in School Leadership That Works, one of the strong correlations that exist for school leaders is that being able to monitor the effectiveness
in school practices and the impact on student learning has a demonstrated correlation with improving student
outcomes. It’s in that vein that action research is a benefit for all the
stakeholders in our educational enterprises, so some of the benefits of action research is
that it is persuasive, authoritative, it’s relevant, that teachers have
access to their findings. It connects research to practice and it’s really not a fad or an add-on,
it’s something that good teachers have always systematically looked at as part of the
teaching and learning process. So, if you again attempt to use the comments and question box to describe what you think the purpose of
action research is. Geoff, this is Kirsten just jumping in. I am able to get to that questions box so I can read back what we’ve heard so far. From the poll about problems of practice, some of them that came through was in using technology effectively in the classroom, group discussion, how much
to be specific about discussion questions and how much to leave it up to students who are either undergraduate or graduate to talk about what they think is
meaningful in the readings and increasing levels of engagement, so that’s that’s the
prior poll and I see a couple of comments coming up here for the purpose of action research. One we have here is to help solve classroom problems. That’s all I have coming up right now but let’s give people just another moment
to see if there are more. Investigate something that is meaningful
or important to your immediate situation but that can also be valuable to other
teachers. Answering questions that are relevant in my classroom is another one. So, thank you, everyone for engaging in that poll and for giving us those great answers. Geoff, I’ll hand it back to you. Ok, thanks, and I’ve just started to be able to see some of those coming through, so thank you. I wanna talk for a moment about ethical guidelines for action
research. And we don’t talk about ethics here in any way to scare people off
from doing research into their own practice but it is a key concern for the researchers and
the researched. And I assume that all of you participating today, whether you’re a
teacher or a researcher or at a university, that you
have guidelines that you need to follow in your own context in order to protect
the confidentiality and anonymity of your research participants. Again, we don’t discuss that here as a way of of causing you any concern about doing
action research but rather to make sure you’re aware that for example if you work in a university context you
will need Institutional Review Board approval perhaps. You should always seek informed
consent of your participants and if you’re working in
a school or district, your district will have guidelines to to help you with the informed consent
process. The underlying or perhaps the most important principle
here is avoidance of harm, that in the research process we want to make sure that any of the information that we collect does not lead to any harm of any of our participants. And certainly, it’s unacceptable to deceive people in this process. One of the ways to deal with the ethical
issues in conducting research is to develop an ethical perspective that really models your own ethical stance, so if you
find yourself in a difficult situation you can respond quickly and naturally in a way that puts all the participants at ease. The
other way to ensure ethical practice is to make sure that
you in fact accurately record all of your data. So like any author, anyone writing about
a process, I came up with my own what I call a dialectic action
research spiral and a four-step process that guides us through the action
research process. The first step is to identify an area of focus. This leads to a data collection strategy or strategies to help answer your research questions. Next, we have the analysis and interpretation
of data, and based on what we learn we develop an
action plan for educational change. Action research is intended to lead directly to improvement and change of practice. It’s
not, arguably, it’s not to contribute necessarily
to a generalizable body of knowledge. We try to work with local problems and local solutions. Identifying an area of focus: there’s lots of ways that each of us can can tackle some of these questions and the poll earlier started to identify some of
these questions. How to solve classroom behavior problems, how to advance a a new reading curriculum, perhaps, but the idea of a general idea of an area
of focus is what is it that strikes you every day
when you walk in your classroom, perhaps that you feel challenged by, that you know that you’re willing to
change and improve upon? So some ways to go about doing that is through conducting reconnaissance, that’s
a fancy way of saying, “reflect on the information that you’re
collecting” in your classroom in your school. We’ll talk more in a moment about reviewing, analyzing, and reporting
literature and the role that that has in helping
you with your area of focus, and finally creating an action research
plan, which is one of the things that we’ll try and do today, at least give you the guidelines for that. So my guidelines for helping you identify an area of focus is to clarify that that area of focus is a new locus of control. This is perhaps a statement of the
obvious, that you want to connect research
that is in your control, not necessary spanning to
somebody else. It should involve teaching and learning and should focus on your own practice.
It’s something that you should feel passionate about and it’s something that you would like
to change or improve upon. Time taken in the early stages of the
action research process, this area of focus problem statement first
step, is critical to a successful action
research process. So, when conducting reconnaissance into your action research area of focus, will lead you to reflect on your own beliefs and
understanding the nature and context of your idea. It perhaps will also help you explore your
understanding of your theories of practice, your educational values, how your work in
schools fits into the context of schooling in
society, the historical context of your own school and how you arrive at your
beliefs about teaching and learning. It’s a way to help you describe the
situation you want to change and improve upon, if you will, the “who, what, when, where, and how” of the situation. And it will allow you to
explain the situation that you plan to investigate. Reviewing, analyzing, and reporting the literature. As I’ve thought about this, there are many resources available
to all of us in terms of accessing existing research data, of I should say the research literature.
Sources such as ERIC, the Educational Resources Information Center, professional organizations, and the What Works Clearinghouse one of IES’s wonderful web sites that covers topics such as math problem
solving, improving reading comprehension, early
childhood, instructional strategies, and so on, is a wonderful starting place for you as you look at what does the current
research tell us that will help us in our own research efforts. So the process of getting into the the research literature involves using
keywords and sources and databases, like a site
such as ERIC and professional organizations such
as the National Council of Teachers of
Mathematics, ASCD, and other professional organizations, but, you know, the literature review part of any research process is a very helpful starting place for
beginning researchers and action researchers, particularly where once we focus on our
area of focus statement, a problem statement and we are trying to identify a promising practice, an
intervention, something that will help us address the
challenges that we are facing. And, again, the What Works
Clearinghouse is a wonderful starting point for all of us. So to help you get started with
your action research process I have here kind of a straightforward
guideline for creating an action research plan. Let’s start us off with writing an area of focus statement. These
statements are typically in the form of, “the purpose of this study is to describe
the impact of some particular intervention on student
achievement.” If you think of the What Works Clearinghouse, that might be something related to early childhood literacy comprehension, math curriculum improvement, and so on. The next step is to define the variables involved in your
research process. In order to search the literature, you need to be clear about what it is that you’re focused on, so variables are, if you will, the parts
of the action research process that you wish to focus on, the particular teaching curriculum,
instruction, or assessment, practice that you wish to investigate. Once you’ve come up with your area of focus and the variables
that you wish to investigate, the next natural step is the development
of specific research questions. Once you have this in mind, then it’s possible to move on to a
description of an intervention or innovation. My current work in Greenland, in working with school principals, is to
focus on an endemic problem in Greenland of student dropout, and so those principals, working with their teachers, are
trying to develop interventions to help children
stay in school. And one of their starting places is in fact the What Works Clearinghouse on this subject. Action research doesn’t have to be done in isolation and in fact I would encourage all action researchers, all teacher
researchers, all people wishing, all the
stakeholders who wish to be empowered and engaged in this democratic process to consider broadening the membership of
their action research group. A school administrator can do this
through working with his or her teachers to
develop a a school-focused projects, such as on
student dropout. Grade-level teams might decide to work on a particular focus related to a particular area that
they identify. So describing the membership of your
action research group is a step. You also need to describe any negotiations that need to
be undertaken in the research process: whether or not
you need to talk to a supervisor, whether you need to
work with parents, children, policy makers and so on. Next, develop a timeline, and while this is just a
guide, it’s a very important guide to help set timelines for the development of your research questions, the area of focus, your data collection timeline, analysis and interpretation and action
planning. Resources. Many of us will say, particularly those of us who are
researchers, that we need resources
in order to implement any of our research processes. If you need funding for a new curriculum
intervention, this is a good time to start with identifying what resources you need and
then data collection ideas. Once you get clear about your research question, then we start to talk about the
development of a data collection matrix and the use
of multiple data sources to answer our questions. Data collection can be in the form of qualitative data collection techniques and quantitative
data collection techniques. And as I referenced the IES publications earlier, there are many
examples in that publication about existing data sources that all schools and districts currently have
available to them. When I write about action
research I focus more on qualitative data collection techniques. What I call the “three E’s” of data
collection: enquiring, examining, and experiencing. If you will, I study schools and I study
classrooms through the lens of a educational
anthropologist, using the triangulation of data from multiple qualitative data sources. So now that I actually have the questions and comments box open, what types
of data do you currently use to make decisions about your practice? Take a moment to list some ideas about that. What kinds of data collection
techniques do you currently use to make decisions about your practice? For me, as a university professor, my data sources are perhaps final assignments submitted by, in my case, educational administration leadership class students, people who want to be
principals, and the kinds of essays they write and their practicum experiences that
demonstrate their proficiencies required for licensure in the
state of Oregon. Kirsten, I’m not seeing anything. I was just about to jump in. I do have that question pane. So it looks like we’ve got some
great answers here: student work, formal and informal writing, and listening in on discussions, surveys and questionaires, quantitative formative and summative assessments, standardized test scores, which is similar, student evaluations, class visits, surveys, how my students are
doing on their assessments, both formal and informal, and here’s one that’s interesting, it’s feedback from my fellow teachers, so great answers across the board. Excellent, thank you. Let me just talk a little bit more
about data collection techniques. Many of those that you’ve identified fall very clearly into my enquiring, examining, and experiencing ideas for data collection. Perhaps one of the important
point to make about data collection is schools and districts have access to large amounts of data, whether it’s
attendance data, standardized test score data, feedback from supervisors about teaching performance, and so on and so
forth. But depending on your area of focus it may be
that you have ready access to a wide range of datasources that are
already available in your setting. Here are a few more ideas about data collection techniques and sources:
existing archival sources within your system, conventional sources such as surveys and
questionnaires and as the title of this webinar suggests, Action Research 101, it’s as I’m realizing,a challenge for me to summarize a 300-page book into a 60-minute webinar, but hopefully in talking
about this today I’ll at least get your appetite and interest aroused. So, conventional sources I’ve talked about.
Inventive sources: exhibits, student portfolios, interviews. I write a lot about what I call, you know, ethnographic
interviews. They’re ongoing in our work
with students in our classrooms, with our colleagues, oral histories, observations either as a participant observer
or non-participant observer, mapping of classrooms, visual recordings, audio recordings, photography, journals and diaries, and so on. And that’s on top of the all of the test data
that we regularly collect in our schools. And in addition to the wonderful ideas
you’ve already generated about data collection. Before I talk about analysis and interpretation of data, I just want to also add that once we get into the action research process, our area of focus, our research questions,
and we start to collect data there’s always the distinct possibility
that once we get into our data collection
process, that we realize that maybe the questions that we started with
aren’t the questions that are perhaps most compelling, so in my dialectic action research spiral, I have an arrow that actually routes back
from from data collection back to area
of focus. The action research process is a a living, breathing process and it’s
possible that throughout the process you refine
your questions and engage in some other data collection efforts that you hadn’t thought about
initially. So, step 3 would be analysis and
interpretation of data, and, you know, the appropriate
qualitative data analysis interpretation techniques depends very much on the kind
of qualitative data you’ve collected, narrative normative data requires us to help identify themes in our data. Quantitative data analysis is more likely to be related to reducing our students’ test scores to averages, means, modes, and medians, trying to reduce our data to numbers in a way that help us
understand the impact of our particular intervention or
innovation. on our student performance. Developing an action plan for educational change This kind of jumps from the
beginning in the process to the end of the process. And for me
action research is, what makes it important for classroom practitioners and principals
is that there is no research without action
and no action without research, and so an important part of the process for
me is developing a steps to action chart and so at the end of the process, once you’ve
been through the area of focus process, the research
question process, the data analysis and interpretation
process, the important step is to identify what will you do next, what will you
do differently next time. you engage in perhaps a refined implementation of a particular teaching
strategy or curriculum innovation to make sure that it doesn’t just
stop at a summary statement of this is
what I learned. It’s an important statement of this is
what I plan to do next, based on what I learned. And that action
planning can be at the individual level, the team level, or the school-wide level, I would even suggest at the system-wide
level. It’s important that we contribute
to our knowledge base in all these areas as an opportunity for
you to share what you’ve learned. In my work in Greenland one of the
things we’re trying to do is to publish for the first time the work of
indigenous Inuit educators in Greenland to
share what they’re learning about the development of culturally responsive
curriculum and pedagogy. in the Arctic region. There’s been very
little written about this and it would be an important contribution to peoples in and around the polar region. Bear with me for a moment So I think, Kirsten, we’re at a point where we can take some questions. I have the questions pane open so if you would like to type in a question for Geoff, I can go ahead and impart that. As
I’m sure you’ve noticed, we’ve had a few little technical glitches so thank you for sticking with us and bearing with us through those, but if you have any questions please go ahead and add those to the questions and comments box. I don’t see anything coming up just yet, in the meantime I’m going to
go ahead and into the chat box I’m going to add that live link to the stakeholder feedback survey that I mentioned earlier and again that’s really just super
helpful for us to know what kinds of events we can bring you, what you may have found helpful, or, you know, anything that you might have liked to change about this webinar. Just things that we can bring to you in the future so if you are able to take a few minutes and complete that, we would very much appreciate it. I’ll also be sending out a link to the archive of this webinar, the recording and the slides, and we will put them on our website as well, and I’ll include that survey link in that follow up also. We’ll give it just another minute to see if there are any questions. And again, when I send this follow up email, if anything comes to mind between now and then, please feel free to email me, that’ll come from my email and you’ll be able to have that to respond to. So do feel free to email me directly with any questions once you receive that. I do have a question coming in from Ruth; thank you, Ruth. So the question is, “What action reseach have you conducted?” Ok. My most recent action research that I’ve participated in, and it’s been, it’s interesting when as a university-based teacher and researcher and someone who writes a lot about doing
research it leaves you less time to conduct research. But one of the things I do for fun and for me doing action research is a
fun part of being a professional educator is my books are used in about three
hundred universities in the United States and I often get invited to
participate in other people’s action research classes for example, Vanderbilt University, Kent
State University through the wonders
of Skype and Google Hangout and Adobe Connect, I’ll be asked to participate in and to a
certain degree team teach action research sessions with other university-based teachers. And so I participated last year
in a collaborative action research project with a professor at Vanderbilt University and a professor at Kent State University, where we were actually looking at the impact
at the use of those technologies such as Google Hangout and access to the textbook author, that would
be me, through email, the impact on student
engagement and the quality of their action research project. So I mean that
was our intervention was, if you will, the
technology and the focus was essentially you know the the impact of involving me in those other classes and perhaps not surprisingly what we
learned was that the student outcomes weren’t significantly
different than what the professors have experienced in the past but the students reported a higher degree of satisfaction
and engagement in the classes and enjoyed the ability to interact directly with the
textbook author and have conversations with him. So that was a lot. I mean my research has
been focused on essentially the impact of me teaching
action research on student outcomes, my student outcomes in
terms of their own research process. So that’s the research I’ve been engaged in
most recently. My next project will be
based on my work in Greenland where I go back in November to work with high school principals in
Greenland to develop a leadership program that is
culturally respectful and appropriate in the Greenlandic context, in
really a post-colonial setting where the principals are all Danish educators who are working in
Greenland and yet in Greenland there is no
formal leadership training so it’s the
development of a leadership program and then the impact of that program on
the success of the high school
reform movement in Greenland. I hope that answers
your question, Ruth. Was it Ruth? Yes, and Geoff, we do have another great question from Elizabeth. How do you respond to grad students who
are told that action research isn’t real research because it can’t be generalized? Yep, thanks, Elizabeth. That
a question I’ve had when I first, when I wrote my first
edition of the action research book. It came out in 2000, and one of the reviewers said, action research, you know, is just garbage
research because it’s not, quote, generalizable, it doesn’t have external
validity. And of course today graduate students will still been
influenced by a perception that the only valid research is research that’s based on a pre-test post-test control
group design, experimental research model, and my argument is in fact that, well, for many many years, the qualitative
research, quantitative research debate has raged and in fact I think it’s time that we put that argument to rest, that the different kinds of research, the
different methodologies have different goals. I mean, the aim of action research is to increase our
understanding of the effectiveness of a particular
intervention in a classroom on student achievement. It doesn’t meet
the tenets of experimental research where we can
randomly assign to a control group and experimental
group the participants in that classroom. You
know, we all inherit as teachers a classroom
of children and we don’t randomly assign those
children to those classrooms. So, you know, it’s a different goal and a
different aim and our aim is to understand not to prove, not to reject some kind of null
hypothesis and a predetermined P value. So my argument for graduate students is to assure them that there are professional
organizations and refereed journals that publish action research, that it is valued in the Academy but it’s not making claims for
generalizability to all schools or any other classroom
for that matter. Does that help, Elizabeth, I hope? Geoff, Elizabeth has another comment that I think actually, I think you’ve actually touched on a bit, but she notes that her IRB doesn’t think they need to
have action research studies reviewed because they’re not generalizable, and they don’t think anyone outside of the department will be interested. Could you speak to that a bit? I would just say in terms of IRB approval, it does vary. At my own
University, students doing action research as a
class assignment do not require IRB approval but we do require that they meet any of
the guidelines required by the school districts in which they’re working. But again, IRBs will often get into a debate about,
well, if you’re not trying to generalize, I mean, usually IRBs will also use
the the idea of, “Well, if you’re going to share
the findings at a professional meeting or in a
publication then you do need IRB approval, and that’s, you know, most classroom
researchers aren’t doing that. Most teacher
researchers aren’t going to publish their work, although they could. But, yeah, it’s an interesting
question for an IRB to tackle. So we do have another question, from Nolan. “Can action research studies
contribute to the development of larger, more comprehensive studies, such
as RCTs?” “Can action research studies contribute to the development of
larger, more comprehensive studies such as RCTs?” I think the question is coming from action
research as a launching point. Yeah, I mean, I would certainly argue
that the question, that the answer is “yes,” and in fact, depending on the nature of the study, if it’s a a school-wide or a district-wide action research focus, that because the way we approach action–the way I approach action research–is a predominantly qualitative research method or approach, design, if you will, that in the process of doing action
research we’re gonna uncover a lot of information that
will help us in a mixed methods research mode, perhaps come up with an answer.
You come out with more questions than answers, it’ll answer the local contextually based question, but it
may raise more systemic questions that then lead to a larger research agenda for a particular system. So, you know, if we have a lot of teachers
or a teacher looking at the development of third
grade reading comprehension skills through the use of a new reading program in their classroom, it may be that that leads to a a larger study of the
implementation of that particular reading program in a school, a district, or system that uses
perhaps a more quantitatively eyed to the research
design. So, yeah, I think that absolutely they
can contribute to a larger research agenda. And I’ll just add one more statement, it could also be that through the teacher’s commitment
to studying what is challenging in their
own classroom and school, that that helps policymakers better
understand the challenges from the
classroom level, you know, because it’s by teachers for
teachers focused and committed to improvement in student outcomes in a way
that you know starting systemically from the outside looking in is perhaps not
possible. It looks like that’s all the questions that we have. Thank you, again, everyone, for participating. We know that this has been a lot of information in a short timeframe, so again, once you do receive that follow-up email from me, if any other questions come up, please do let us know. We’re happy to follow up with you individually. Any questions on your specific situation or on broader questions as well. I’m going to go ahead and leave up the link to our stakeholder feedback survey for those of you who have not clicked onto that yet and had a moment to complete that. I will, again, send that out in my follow-up as well. Again, thank you so much for joining us and we hope to see you at future REL Pacific webinars.

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