Crafting the Action Research Literature Review

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Crafting your literature review

Conceptual/Theoretical Frameworks

As an action researcher conducting a study and writing a dissertation, you wear two hats. One of your hats involves the intervention being implemented by you and/or by others with your guidance. The other hat is the one you wear as a researcher where you are stepping back from the actual intervention and evaluating the change or improvement effect it has on the organization. This means that, in the literature review, you should examine the problem and intervention (citing relevant primary sources) in terms of a conceptual/theoretical framework, and you should explain your action research study in terms of other conceptual/theoretical frameworks having to do with change, systems, and action science research. Your review in Chapter 2 examines the literature from both these perspectives.

Theories vs. Models

To explain the difference a theory and a model it may be helpful to consider thinking why university educational departments typically carry the title “Educational Theory and Practice.” Theories are the overarching explanations for the way things work and models are an attempt to work out the theory in practice. For example, Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development is well known to educators. Constructivist models of learning and instruction are based on Piaget’s theory. Marie Clay’s highly successful Reading Recovery model of early reading instruction was influenced greatly by Lev Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory, and particularly his concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). So you can see that models are the “children” of theories. They can be thought of as practical expressions of a theory. Some people go as far to say that models are experimental versions of theories.

Examining the Literature

One way to organize your review is to examine the literature in two major areas:

1. Decide on a theory that provides a way to think about the problem and the...
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