Have you tried a new strategy in your classroom lately? Have you planned your lessons differently? Are you looking for an alternative approach to dealing with a problem in your classroom? If your answer to any of these questions is Yes, you’re already on the way to doing action research. By formalising the process through careful planning, acting and evaluating, and by doing effective research, you can elevate simple changes to the level of worthwhile and effective action research.
Action research is a systematic process that allows you to try out different ways of doing things in your classroom or in your school, until you find something that really works for you and for your students.
Why should I do action research?
As a teacher, you have probably come across curriculum material or reports that have been developed by a central education department that just don’t work well in your particular school or in your own classroom. Research may have been done in compiling the material, but the final product is standardised and too broad to be of use in your particular situation. Or perhaps you’ve undertaken some professional development and picked up some tips, only to find that they didn’t work for you or your students. Here’s how action research can help:
• Action research is situation specific: it enables you to examine your own situation. • It is a participatory process and allows for input from all those involved. • It is collaborative. You work with colleagues and other participants to answer your research question.
• It allows for an ongoing process of self‐evaluation where you appraise yourself and your own performance.
• It assumes that you already have a great deal of professional knowledge and can continue to develop this knowledge and improve your practice. Where will I find the time?
Teaching is hard work. Meeting curriculum requirements, keeping up with changes in technology in classrooms, teaching and preparing new and exciting lessons, marking, talking to parents, coaching sport and supervising extra‐mural activities – the list is a long one. Increasingly, teachers are also expected to absorb more of the parental and counselling role in their boys’ lives.
Action research isn’t just something to add to your load. It may take a little time to organise and evaluate, but by allowing you to take control and make changes that enable best practice, the benefits far outweigh the costs. How does action research work? Step One: Identify an issue and begin to formulate your question Choose something that is important to you as a teacher: for example, look at some of your own teaching methods or at the way your boys learn. Start with a simple, manageable project ‐ you may not be able to change everything at once, but you can improve a small part. Start off with a question, like Why do the boys in my class...? Think about how you could develop that question into something which includes an intervention, like What happens when I ...? 3
ReflectStep Two: Find out more about the issue: read, research, reflect! Do research to find out about your topic. Read books, journals and other research studies and papers. When you start, try to use at least three sources. You’ll find more and more references as you go along. Remember to keep reading: your research is not confined to one part of the study – it’s an integral and ongoing part of it.
Maintain focus while you research so your project doesn’t become unmanageable. You may find that you need to revisit your question and make changes, or even change your direction to work on something more interesting.
Step Three: Make changes or try out your new idea
What are you going to do? Make the change or try out your new idea in your classroom. How will you measure your results? You can use a wide variety of data collection methods: interviews, questionnaires, observation, journals and many more.