Action research comprises a type of research that is focused towards designing new means and ways to improve the conditions and practices in different situations. The basis for this typology is the objective of the research. On the basis of the objective of the research we can categorize research into basic research, applied research, and action research. Kurt Lewin in 1946 is credited with the idea of action research.
Aims in action research
- The aim of the researcher in action research is to design new ways or modify the existing ones for an individual or for a group of people.
- Action research can be undertaken by an individual or by large organizations. Large organizations conduct this research to find the efficiency of a program or intervention and to bring positive improvements.
- This research does not aim at universality, genralizability, or wide audience appeal. It might be useful for only a group of people on which this study is conducted.
- It has immediate applications for a real life problem in local settings. In educational settings action research is done on regular basis. In education, action research is a reflective process carried on by the teachers and other educational experts.
- This research is an ongoing process that helps the educationist, health care providers and other professionals improve their practices on regular basis.
- Though less formal, action research is very systematic and organized like any other type of research.
Difference between action and applied research
There is a clear difference between action research and applied research. While applied research seek to find solutions for some current issues, action research helps design new ways to bring positive changes in a situation. In applied research the researcher does not have much control over the situation but in action research the researcher can manipulate the situation the way he wants to do.
The aim of the this research is not generalization although the results are presented so others can benefit from it. The aim of the applied research is generalization. Action research as opposed to applied research, also helps the researcher in investigating loopholes in current research techniques. Researchers conduct action research to find ways to solve a problem that can help real respondents that are involved in the action research. They also conduct this research to study an existing theory and to improve it.
Action research helps you come out of the obstacles of thinking about an experimental plan that has a control group and an experimental group. It helps you investigate, implement, refine, and reflect on your approach to do one thing or other.
Steps in action research
Although action research does not necessarily follows the research process model but generally it has the following the steps involved.
Identify the problem
Action research begins when you identify a problem that you want to investigate. This could be a problem that you encountered in your work-space or it could be a problem that you and your colleagues encountered in the overall system. Once you have identified the problem you should make a mind map of what could be the possible solutions. You do not necessarily need to write a formal report. You can review literature to become more acquainted with the problem and the available solutions.
This problem can be something that you encountered as you are teaching in your class, like, why students from a particular socioeconomic class score high or low in class. It can be a problem you encountered in the work-space, like, why working late hours in the office declines the performance of one of your colleague. You might have some possible hunches about the solution of this problem. You do not need to make a formal hypothesis but a hunch will help you give an idea where to begin.
Your action plan
Now as you are well acquainted with the problem and have some solutions in your mind you can move forward to actually implementing the solutions. You can try more than one solution to see the results. For example, if you want to improve the test grades of one of your student in the class, you can develop different strategies for improvement of his grades. You can now order all of these strategies in their order of importance, try the strategy that you think is most suitable to bring improvements.
Now it is not necessary that your action yields successful results but one thing is sure you will learn new strategies from your actions. You might be able to reach to the right solution while you are applying a wrong strategy.
Data collection is done by the researcher to perform his action plan. The data can be collected using interviews, observation, by using previous records, etc. For example a teacher is interested in knowing how to improve the attendance of the students in her class, she can collect data about the past attendance from the written records. She can also ask some questions from the parents or students to know why students missed school on each of these days.
If you are using observation as a tool to collect data you can become a participant of the observation or you can stay a passive observer. Questionnaire and interview can also be used as a tool to collect data.
In action research the researcher is solving the direct problems of the person who are interviewed, observed, or questioned through questionnaire. This gives the respondents a good reason to participate as the results might bring positive change in their life. Practitioners, health care providers and other professionals also carry out action research in the same way.
Your analysis and conclusion
The last step in this research is to analyze your strategies and conclude your findings. Now the aim of this research is not primarily publishing a theses or research paper but it is wise to share your findings with other people in your field so they can benefit.
Your analysis of the problem and its solution is not the end of the action research. Once you are done with the results of one cycle of action research you repeat it again to modify the results. This process is like reflection of what you have achieved through your research and you are ready to make a new plan and new investigations.
- “Chapter 1. What is Action Research”. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/What-Is-Action-Research¢.aspx. Retrieved on 2019/2/7