Action Research Is An Investigation Education Essay

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Chapter 3

Action Research is an investigation, where, as a result of rigorous self-appraisal of current practice, the researcher focuses on a `problem` (or a topic or an issue which needs to be explained), and on the basis of information (about the up-to-date state of art, about the people who will be involved and about the context), plans, implements, then evaluates an action then draws conclusions on the basis of the findings. `

This chapter entitle Research Methodology covers the different types of collecting data used such as case studies, interviews, surveys, observations, and the different aspects of sampling procedure, questionnaire design, data collection and ethical issues associated with research. The objective is to provide an insight into the methodologies used as well as into the reasons and the pertinence of their use.

3.1 What is Research?

Research is a means to obtain knowledge. A Research methodology merely defines what the activity of research is, how to proceed, how to measure progress and what constitute success. In other words, Research is a human activity based on intellectual investigation and is aimed at discovering, interpreting and revising human knowledge on different aspects of the world.

3.1.1 Why Research is of value?

There are different ways of obtaining information. Some of these are:

Consulting experts, relying on intuition;

Review books & articles, questions, or observe colleagues with relevant experience; however these are not reliable.

3.1.2 Research methods

The goal of the research process is to produce new knowledge, which takes three main forms:

Exploratory research, which structures and identifies new problems

Constructive research, which develops solutions to a problem

Empirical research, which tests the feasibility of a solution using empirical evidence

Research can also fall into two distinct types:

Primary research

Secondary research.

Research methods used by researchers include:

Action research


Case study


Experience and intuition



Mathematical models

Participant observation


Statistical analysis

Statistical surveys

Content or Textual Analysis


3.2 Action Research

For this study action research was selected since action research helps to identify what students are really doing, rather than what they think they are doing. In action research the researcher focuses on a 'problem' and on the basis of information, plans, implements and then evaluates an action than draw conclusions on the basis of findings (Macintyre, 1991).

Action research would also help to tailor teaching and learning to learners and their settings. According to Corey's action research in many ways is education's own. It is not borrowed from other field. In a classroom situation action research calls for broad involvement, a flexible study plan, time for participants to grow in the process of studying the problem and most important of all, assurance that action be taken towards a solution to the problem under study (Barnes, 1960).

Corey believed that the value of action research is in the change that occurs in everyday practices rather than the generalization to a broader audience. He saw the need for teachers and researchers or teachers as researcher to work together (Mc Farland & Stansell, 1993).

3.2.1 Action research in the field of education

There are certain hypotheses about educational research which shape Educationists thinking and determine course of action. An educational research may be approached from different perspectives, depending on the aim of the research and the constraints on the research. For my study, as a teacher I have to give personal report and understanding of what happens in the classroom. The educational tradition proposed by Stephen Cory in 1953 illustrates the ways a teacher can improve her practices. It was the initial systematic attempt to define Action Research.

Interest in action research declined over the next few years as experiments with research designs and quantitative data collection became the norm. Action research highlights the involvement of teachers having problems in their own classrooms that has as its primary goal the in-service training and development of the teacher rather than the acquisition of general knowledge in the field of education.

Stephen Corey at Teachers College at Columbia University was among the first to use action research in the field of education. He believed that the scientific method in education would bring about change because educators would be involved in both the research and the application of information. Corey summed up much of the thought behind this fledgling branch of inquiry.

Through action research I would be able to continue the process of change and progress in the classroom. Considering the classical classroom situation, the main resources were the textbook and additional notes which were used as a guide for lesson planning and a source of assignment. Classroom interaction is dominated by the teacher who, on average, contributes 85% of the talk, 15% of the dialogue typically consisted of responding to teachers questions either singly or in chorus. Very rarely did the students ask questions or initiate an exchange (Stuart, 1977).

3.2.2 Reasons for choosing action research

Action research is one of those terms that we hear quite often in today's educational spheres. Classically, action research is undertaken in a school setting. It is a reflective process that allows for query and discussion as components of the research. Often, action research is a collaborative activity among colleagues searching for solutions to everyday, real problems experienced in schools, or looking for ways to improve instruction and increase student achievement. Rather than dealing with the theoretical, action research allows practitioners to address those concerns that are closest to them, ones over which they can exhibit some influence and make change.

Action research is essentially an on the spot procedure designed to deal with a concrete problem located in an immediate situation. This means that for my research the step-by-step process is constantly monitored ideally over varying periods of time and by a variety of data collection tools (Cohen and Manion, 1989).

The data collection tools will ensure feedback which may be translated into modifications, adjustments, directional changes, redefinitions as necessary, so as to bring about lasting benefits to the ongoing process itself (Cohen and Manion, 1989).

The process of action research assists educators in assessing needs, documenting the steps of inquiry, analyzing data, and making informed decisions that can lead to desired outcomes. Although there are many types of research that may be undertaken, action research specifically refers to a disciplined inquiry done by a teacher with the intent that the research will inform and change his or her practices in the future. This research is carried out within the context of the teacher's environment, that is, with the students and at the school in which the teacher works.

3.3 Research designs

For my research I have adopted qualitative approach. Implicit in the term action research is the idea that I will begin a cycle of posing questions, gathering data, reflecting, and deciding on a course of action. The idea of using research in a "natural" setting to change the way that the teacher as researcher interacts with, is that setting can be traced back to Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist and educator whose work on action research was developed throughout the 1940s in the United States.

"Lewin is credited with coining the term 'action research' to describe work that did not separate the investigation from the action needed to solve the problem" (McFarland & Stansell, 1993).

3.3.1 Lewinian Model of Action research

In this technique of action research, learning change and growth are seen to be facilitated best by an integrated process. It begins with experience followed by collection of data and observation about that experience. The data are then analysed and the concluding analyses are fed back to the actors in the experience for their use in the modification of their behaviour and choice of a new experience. Learning is thus visualized as a four stage cycle as shown in figure 1 (Kolb, 1984).

Concrete experience

Testing implications of

concepts in new situation Observation and reflections

Formation of abstract concepts and generalisations

3.3.2 Dewey's model of learning

John Dewey model of the learning process is remarkably similar to the Lewinian model. He makes more explicit the development nature of learning impulses in Lewin's theory. A feedback process is utilized by describing how learning transform the impulse, feeling and desire of definite experience into higher order determined action (Kolb, 1984).

This model stresses on learning as a dialectic process incorporating experience and concepts, observation and action. The whim of experience provides ideas to their moving force, and ideas give direction to impulse. Postponement of immediate action is important for observation and judgement to intervene. Action is essential for achievement of goal (Kolb, 1984).

3.4 Model selected

I have selected the model advocated by Stephen Kemmis. He proposes a self-reflective spiral of planning, acting, observing, reflecting and re-planning as a basis for a problem solving manoeuvre. Kemmis bases his ideas on the original concept of Lewin but he has defined it considerably. The diagram below shows the principles in action that is the movement from one critical phase to another and the way in which progress may be made through the system.

1st phase


Observe Plan


2nd phase


Observe Revised plan


Stephen Kemmis Model

3.5 Implementation of cycles

Cycle 1

Cycle 2

Cycle 3


Observational Study - man-made

Observational Study - Natural

Observational Study - Still life


80 minutes

80 minutes

80 minutes

Teaching strategy

Demonstration by teacher to students in class

Demonstration by students to groups

Peer demonstration by students

Data collection tools







Qualitative research tend to study the "quality" of things around us naturally in the context and based on the assumption that the world is made up of numerous realities, socially constructed by various individual views of the same situation. Those researchers try to discover the meanings and interpretations by studying cases intensively in natural settings and by reflecting the researchers' own experiences in what they report.

Advantages: it provides understanding from the viewpoint of the participants; offers a strong empirical commitment to triangulated description of teaching; uses greater flexibility in the strategies and techniques; and shows a sense of empathy enhancing the utility of use for applied practice in education.

3.7 Sample

A sample means a group of people on whom the investigation will be carried out. The target sample refers to all students involved in the study. For my study I have selected a class of Form V level students from the school I'm actually working. The population of the class is 8 and they are all students of Art and Design. Once the official authorization at the school was granted (Appendix ***), I had to be cautious and careful to focus on my aims and objectives of my study.

3.8 Triangulation

Triangulation is a process in which the researcher uses two or more research methods to investigate the same phenomenon. This can be done consecutively, so that sequence of stages of research emerges. For example, for my study observation is carried out initially and then interview is being used. It is a good idea to try and use more than one method of enquiry to improve my chances of getting better, more reliable data. This will minimize the chance of biased findings. Using more than one method research is sometimes referred as triangulation. It is not as easy as it sounds (Grix, 2004).

There are several types of triangulations:

Time triangulation

Space triangulation

Combined levels of triangulation

Theoretical triangulation

Investigator triangulation

(Denzin, 1970)

The major benefits of triangulation are that findings and conclusions are likely to be much more convincing and accurate if based on several different sources of information. The best way is to check findings derived from one type of method with those derived from another, as long as the original fact under investigation remains the same thus it would be enhancing the validity of the research (Grix, 2004). For my research I have selected the investigator type of triangulation.

3.8.1 Observation

What people say is a major source of qualitative data. However there are some limitations to how much can be learned from what people say. Through observation the researcher can have organisational data, which are not possible through interviews. However, it is true that not everybody can be observed. Data for scientific and technical purposes are obtained in one or two ways; by observation and by experimentation. Observation means we watch carefully and record what we see. However, this is not as easy as it sounds. Accurate and reliable observation, therefore, requires much training and practice. Since I am teaching art as a subject and I have been working in five colleges including star and low performing schools, with girls and boys, meeting different colleagues, rectors, and parents it was easy to establish trustworthiness. I spent some time observing. Thus the findings are considered to be trustworthy. The need for triangulation arises from the ethical need to confirm the validity of the processes. Thus the methodologies used for the purpose of this study are, interviews, questionnaire design, and personal observation.

3.8.2 Interview as a research method

Interviews are very popular forms of research tool and may be used in conjunction with other forms of data, viewpoints and methods that is using the Triangulation process.

Wolcott (1989) suggests that triangulated techniques are helpful "for cross-checking or for ferreting out varying perspectives on complex issues and events" (p.192).

The interview method of research, typically involves a face-to-face meeting in which a researcher (interviewer) asks an individual a series of questions.

The interview method is a conversation with a purpose and is non experimental in design.

Interview is used as the primary research tool, or alternatively in an ancillary role, as a checking mechanism to triangulate data gathered from other sources.

The interview is used widely to supplement and extend our knowledge about individual(s) thoughts, feelings and behaviours, or how they think they feel and behave. Categories of interview

There are two categories of interview:



The key feature of the structured interview is in the pre-planning of all the questions asked. Structured interviews also allow for replication of the interview with others. For my study here similar questions were asked to the personnel of the MOE and the MGI. For instance I can then generalize what I find out to the population from which my interview sample came. Structured interviews are conducted in face-to-face mode. The structured interview

Using questions tightly specified in advance structured interviews aim to survey relatively large populations by asking same questions in the same order. This type of interview is used for a variety of reasons but can often be used to increase response rates and the quality of answers for questionnaire style research.

Cohen & Manion (1989:312ff) set out the main types of item used in structured interviews.

Fixed alternative: i.e. Dichotomous yes/no

Open - ended: some response flexibility possible

Scale: usually degrees of agreement- disagreement Semi structured interview

Semi Structured Interviews is perhaps the most commonly used interview technique in qualitative social research, the researcher will want to know certain information which can be compared and contrasted with information from other interviews, and the researcher may produce an interview schedule which is a list of questions the researcher will want to find out from the interviewee. Unstructured interview

An Unstructured Interview is where the researcher asks as few questions as possible, permitting the interviewee talk freely, intervening only to refocus the discussion or probe for additional insights into a key area.

A qualitative interview is different from everyday conversation in the following ways. First it is a research tool and enabled me to prepare questions in advance, and later analyze and report results. I guided the questions and focused the study. Good interview skills require practice and reflection. Finally, beyond the acquisition of interview skills, interviewing is a philosophy of learning. Personally I become a student and then try to get people to describe their experiences in their own terms.

Interviews can give us both quantitative and qualitative data about participants' thoughts, feelings and behaviours. This is due to the standardization and / or free ranging nature of questions asked. The more structured or standardized interview questions are, the more able you to get quantitative data. Quantitative data is reliable and easy to analyse. The less structured and freer ranging the interview questions the more qualitative your data becomes. Qualitative data is difficult to analyse and is not as reliable.

3.9 Survey Questionnaire

The survey also called questionnaire is a set of questions given to a sample of people. The purpose is to gather information about the people's attitudes, thoughts, behaviours and so forth. The researchers compile the answers of the people in the sample in order to know how the group as a whole thinks or behaves. I have designed two set of questionnaires; one for the teaching staffs and the other for students. The questionnaires were used because of the following advantages:

3.9.1 Advantages of Written questionnaire

Questionnaires are cost effective when compared to face-to-face interviews

They are easy to analyze

They reduce bias as there are no verbal or visual clues to influence the respondent

Questionnaires are less intrusive than the telephone or face-to- face surveys. when a respondent receives a questionnaire he is free to complete it on his own time-table

3.9.2 Disadvantages of written questionnaire

Possibility of low response rates

The inabilities to probe responses as questionnaires are structured instruments. They allow little flexibility to the respondent with respect response format.

Gestures and other visual cues are not available with written questionnaires.

Questionnaires are simply not suited for some people

3.9.3 Format of the questionnaire

One of the underpinning of a successful survey is the appropriateness of the questionnaire. The prime of the questionnaire is to collect the relevant data. Therefore, while designing it, I used simple language. It was concise and manageable. It should not be complex, ambiguous and lengthy as long questionnaires get less response than short ones. More important than length is question content. A subject is more likely to respond if they are interested in the research topic. Questions should be meaningful and interesting to the respondent.

The order of the questions is grouped into logically coherent sections by grouping questions that are similar as this makes the questionnaire easier to complete, and the respondent will feel more comfortable. And transitions between questions were made smooth.

The qualities of good questions also are of paramount importance for example using: dichotomous questions; multiple choice questions; rank ordering; rating scales; and open-ended questions. I have chosen multiple choice, dichotomous, and rating items for their popularity when doing the survey because they are generally the easiest for the respondent to reply and easiest also to analyze. In the second part of both my survey questionnaires I have used open-ended questions as they are devices for smaller scale research and they invite honest, personal comment and free response from respondents.

3.10 Pupils Diaries

Diaries are an attractive way of gathering information about the way student spends their time. Such dairies are not records of engagements or personal journals of thoughts and activities, but records or logs of professional activities. They will provide valuable information about work patterns and activities provided subjects are clear what they are being asked to do (Bell, 1998).

Through this method, students will be given the opportunity to express themselves and give constructive feedback on a particular teaching episode. A checklist will also be given to the students to guide them in what to record in their diaries. The main concern would be to get feedback on how far they have been able to implement what they have learnt in theory class in the practical class.

3.11 Data

The values of integrity, fairness and impartiality are upheld in data analysis. It was ensured that data pertaining to the survey were collected after having explained to the respondent the general nature of the enquiry and the intended use of the data. Much care has been used to avoid misunderstanding and misuse of the results of the research.

Effective data can be obtained if the right questions are asked make a lot of the appropriate data analysis tools and use different sources of data to increase the believability of the findings, we cannot rely and expect too much from data. Data does not stand -alone as it is the meaning we apply to the data that is critical. The following chapter will deal with the analysis and findings of the collected data.

3.12 Anonymity and Confidentiality

An anonymous study is one in which nobody can identify who provided the data. Some studies have shown that response rate is affected by the anonymity/confidentiality policy of a study. Others have reported that responses became more distorted when subjects felt threatened that their identities would be known. Others have found that anonymity and confidentiality issues do not affect response rates or responses. I have also used anonymous questionnaires that contain no identifying information so that to produce more honest responses.

3.13 Validity and Reliability of Instrumentations

Reliability refers to the consistency of scores or answers from one administration of an instrument to another; and from one set of items to another.

Validity refers to the meaningfulness, appropriateness and usefulness of the inferences a researcher makes. The triangulation method was used to ensure validity. The triangulation (observation, interview, recording and continuous feedbacks) approach gives confidence in the validity of the inference. Informal interviews have been dealt directly with the students, hence producing precise information. The triangulation will benefit in the sense that the data can be crosschecked. It can also be less resource demanding although it may lead the researcher to undertake more research to validate or assess theoretical perspective.