As opposed to experimental studies, action research is the primary means of research utilized in real-world scenarios. As a test pilot in preliminary research, many social scientists have operated in action research settings (Coates, 2005). There are three key ideas that were found to be the most significant from the module’s readings:
1. The plan-act-reflect cycle
2. Appreciative inquiry
3. The participatory element
As a whole, the plan-act-reflect cycle’s aim is to take part in another action during the action research process. Its purpose is found in evaluating current findings versus findings from the preceding stage in order to perform root cause analysis (Dick, 2014). At each step in the cycle, the researcher’s plan is revised, pushed forward, acted upon, reflected upon, and eventually revised again. These steps follow the cyclical process that is undertaken when performing action research. The plan portion starts the process by identifying which action should be accomplished to overcome the identified problem, improve a practice, or develop a system. The act portion is the phase during which the action is actually carried out. Finally, the reflect stage asks how well the actionable plan worked, what its impact was, and how it could be performed better in the future. Upon completion of the reflection stage, a new cycle commences and the cycle repeats until the objective of the research is achieved (Dick, 2014).
In the key idea of appreciative inquiry, the researcher focuses on strengths instead of weaknesses. It is commonly used to comprehend empirical data’s surface analysis within an action research setting. The appreciative inquiry method aims to have stakeholders participate in their own changes that they determine to be necessary. This asset-based approach to engagement often utilizes questions and dialogue to assist the stakeholders in uncovering the advantages and opportunities in their organizations (Dick, 2014).
The participatory element detects the underlying basis of case study research and change management. Researchers use it in order to reflect and act upon the data which they have collected. This element can encompass research methods, frameworks, and designs that utilize systematic inquiry in direct collaboration with the subjects being affected by the study problem in order to elicit action and change. Its goal is ultimately to improve a practice, process, or program to solve real-world problems within the action research model (Dick, 2014). A study has a participatory element if there is participation by the subjects being studied, includes popular knowledge, focuses on power and empowerment, educates the participants, and promotes political action.
One concept that I found difficult in the understanding and application of case study data analysis was how researchers go about ensuring the accuracy of their data. The information obtained during the data collection stage must be airtight in its accuracy to guarantee accurate analysis of the research results. Precise reliability and validity of the data is vital in order to apply the data appropriately throughout the action research process. The text appears to be more concerned about the ongoing process for completing future research, but less so with the methods used to verify accuracy of the data (Adams et al., 2014). Some subtopics to explore further to better understand the requirements to certify accuracy would be looking for outliers and deviations, confirming data reliability, triangulating data sources, verifying the data collection manner, and avoiding biased results.
Adams, J., Raeside, R., & Khan, H. (2014). Research methods for business and social science students (2nd ed.). SAGE Publications. Available in the Trident Online Library EBSCO database.
Coates, M. (2005). Action research: A guide for associate lecturers. Center for Outcomes Based Education.
Dick, B. (2014, December 30). Action research and evaluation on line, as a web-based program.
The readings were helpful in providing a wide variety of lenses to view action research from, including several regarding its applicability in an educational setting. The three main ideas in the readings were the differences of action research to other research, the importance of evaluating changes made, and the need for collaboration.
Action research is different from many other types of research. Coates (2005) highlights how action research is unique in that "it is not simply problem solving and references how a combination of understanding through change and continuing to evaluate those changes and continue the process is importance. Dick (2014) also references that a strength of action research versus other methods is that it combines change making and understanding at the same time. Ferrence (2000) states that it's not standard problem solving or pure knowledge building, but rather all about working on improvement. This is an interesting way to look at how action research differs from even similar research such as true case studies.
A key difference in action research which stems from the first main idea is the importance of evaluation. Dick (2014) prefers to continuously evaluate the changes being made and make constant changes. Ferrence (2000) also references the importance of continuing the cycle and adding additional evaluation cycles, although not as much as a constant evaluation. The fact that this is done in an ongoing cycle to ensure that the best changes made are achieving the results is referenced by Sankaran & Ranjan (2010). Mcintyre (2007) also highlights that action is not taken on every item identified; rather, the most important and impactful items are taken into consideration.
Finally, the importance of collaboration is key. There are multiple forms of collaboration, including collaborating with fellow researchers involved as well as the participants themselves (Coates, 2005). Dick (2014) considers the importance of the participation and collaboration from those involved, and to ensure that the appropriate people who would actually contribute to the change are involved.
One item which is more difficult in understanding is how to balance the desired final state with restraints. In a study such as done by students, there is not enough time to have a seemingly endless cycle of changes and evaluations. Ferrence (2020) and Dick (2014) both strive for a level of fully understanding and implementing change which best solves the issue. In an ideal world, that would certainly be preferred. When there's a trade-off of time and results, I find it difficult to understand the appropriate balance, similar to spending 10% of the time to get a 90% solution and stopping versus spending another 90% of the time to get to the last 10%.
Coates, M. (2005). Action research: A guide for associate lecturers. Center for Outcomes Based Education. .
Dick, B. (2014, December 30). Action research and evaluation on line, as a web-based program.
Ferrance, E. (2020). Action research: Themes in education.
McIntyre, A. (2007). Participatory action research. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Sankaran, S., & Ranjan, M. (2010). Implementing organizational change using action research in two Asian cultures. Paper presented at PMI® Research Conference: Defining the Future of Project Management, Washington, DC. Project Management Institute.
After reviewing the readings this week, I have noted three key ideas that I found most significant from the readings, along with one element that was difficult to understand.
After carefully reviewing the readings and reading the application of action reach in numerous examples, I found the article by Ferrance (2020) most interesting as it demonstrates how action research can be completed with different perspectives from the single classroom to a broader district level. In addition, I found the discussion interesting on how the research design can be positioned at different levels, each with varying forms of support and potential side effects. This demonstrated the importance of clarity on the research questions, as the design must follow the specific research questions posed.
I also found the types of collections available in action research refreshing. For example, using diaries, journals, field notes, and memos opens the door for personal reflection from the participants – instruments that might not be used in the case study as the participants might not be part of the change process itself. In addition, data triangulation seems easier in Action Research, given the enhanced access one might have to the participants.
The third idea I thought was important was the action research process itself. The concept of planning, acting, observing and reflecting, as discussed by Coates (2005), provides an excellent structure to organize the approach for the study. One area of concern evident in the McIntyre (2007) readings was the extensive time involved in completing action research. The reflective nature is valuable to the research design, but for someone looking at writing a DSP, the time involved in completing a few cycles does not seem feasible, given the time we have to complete the study.
One topic I found confusing was the differences in the definitions of Action Research, Action Learning and Action Science, as explained by Sankaran (2010). While the comparison table helps provide some perspective, those terms were not used in the other readings, making it hard to see the value of the nuances in the words.
Overall, I like the idea of Action Research as a research design. I follow this approach when completing numerous projects at my work. As presented by Coates (2005), the structure made me aware of the importance of reflection as part of the process. I don’t do enough of this at work, given the number of projects on the go and the limited time to complete pushes me to the next project vs. the next iteration of the same project.
Coates, M. (2005). Action Research: A Guide for Associate Lecturers.
Ferrance, E. (2020). Action Research. https://thecurrent.educatorinnovator.org/sites/default/files/files/23/act_research.pdf
McIntyre, A. (2007). Participatory Action Research [Book]. In Participatory Action Research (Vol. 52). SAGE Publications, Incorporated. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781483385679
Sankaran, S., & Kumar. (2010). Implementing organizational change using action research in two Asian cultures.
From the readings, this writer learned that Action Research is a type of applied research also known as evaluative research. The technique combines traditional research rigor and systematic procedure, focusing on the practical and relevant components of applied problem-solving. The goal of action research is to find a practical solution to a problem specific to a community or social situation. It applies fact-finding to practical problem-solving in real-life contexts (Adams et al. 2014, McNiff 2013). This methodology leverages the collaboration or cooperation of researchers, practitioners (usually teachers), and others (Ferrance, n.d.). Thus, it is a participatory and reflective method originated in schools (Ferrance n.d.). Action research describes work that does not separate the study from the action needed to implement steps to address the issue at hand. Thus, the research is conducted in a “natural setting” (Adams et al. 2014). It is a cyclical process. It prioritizes the practical needs of individuals and communities through collaborative problem-solving and attempts to effect constructive change. Typically, action research is carried out cyclically, with the researcher first collecting data, then commenting on the results, and finally modifying the environment to enhance it. This process is repeated several times until the desired result is obtained (Ferrance, n.d., Creswell 2018 ). Like case study research, action research uses triangulation (Harrison, 2013, Stake 1995).
Three Significant Ideas
Three significant ideas, in this writer’s view, showing the collective, practical, and empowering nature of action research and its emphasis on a distinction in the lives of the participants are:
a. Action research is a collaborative and cyclical process – Action research is a collaborative process that involves researchers and participants working together to address a particular issue or problem. The process is cyclical, with each repetition building on the results of previous iterations to create a more informed and effective solution (Ferrance, n.d.).
b. Action research focuses on improving practice – Action research is focused on improving practice and making a real-world impact. It is a practical, problem-solving approach that involves doing related work in research and thereby is concerned with making a difference in the lives of those being studied (Ferrance, n.d.).
c. Action research is founded on the idea that people can change – Action research relies on the principle that people have the power to change and enhance their ways. The process enables participants to participate actively in their learning and progress. It also urges them to reflect on their experiences to make positive adjustments (Ferrance, n.d.).
One Element or Issue
One element or concept that this writer found challenging in case study data analysis is triangulation. As in case study research, triangulation is essential in Action research. Triangulation refers to using multiple data sources and various data collection methods to enhance the validity and reliability of findings. This can be difficult to understand and implement in practice because it requires the researcher to gather data from various sources and use multiple data analysis methods, which can be time-consuming and complex. Additionally, the researcher must be able to effectively synthesize and integrate the findings from various data sources, which can also be challenging. Deploying triangulation can be complicated for several reasons; it requires a minimum of three data sources (Ferrance, n.d.).
Additionally, not only should the data be analyzed, they must be linked to the findings. For action research, this writer believes triangulating may need to be done at various levels for valid results. Thus, it could be cumbersome.
Thus, the triangulation process can be challenging for researchers, especially those new to action research. They may need help to determine the appropriate data sources and methods of data collection from multiple sources, interpretation, and integration into the findings. They may also need help with the time and resources required to collect and analyze the data. Triangulation is an essential element in case data analysis. However, it can also be a challenging aspect of the research process. Researchers must be diligent in their approach to triangulation and be prepared to invest the required time and resources to ensure their findings are robust and credible. Triangulation in case study data analysis helps validate the study’s conclusions by providing multiple perspectives on the same phenomenon. For example, suppose the researcher uses both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods; the findings of each technique can be compared to ensure that they are consistent and coherent (Creswell & Clarke 2017, Creswell 2014, Johnson & Onwuegbuzie 2004).
1. Adams, J., Raeside, R.. & Khan, H. (2014). Research methods for business and social science students (2nd ed.). (Dissertation – Business/Marketing bibliographies) SAGE Publications.
2. Creswell, J. W. (2018). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. Sage publications.
3. Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approach. Sage publications.
4. Creswell, J. W., & Clark, V. L. P. (2017). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (2nd ed.). Sage Publications.
5. Ferrance, E. (n.d.). Action research: Themes in education. https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/sites/brown.edu.academics.education-alliance/files/publications/act_research.pdf Retrieved on February 11, 2023.
6. Harrison, R. L. (2013). Using mixed methods designs in the Journal of Business Research, 1990–2010. (“Methodological Rigor in Mixed Methods: An Application in Management …”) Journal of Business Research, 66(11).
7. Johnson, R. B., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2004). Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come. Educational Researcher, 33(7), 14-26.
8. McNiff, J. (2013). Action research: Principles and practice. Routledge.
9. Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. Sage publications.
I can understand why you chose to emphasize the ideas you selected as significant from your interpretation of the readings. I agree strongly on your second key idea that systemic, rigorous data analysis procedures are vital to a researcher performing quality work. Researchers should carefully deliberate their potential selections for data collection and analysis methods before embarking on their research. Having proper procedures in place to cross-reference and verify their data after they have compiled it is equally important to the method they used to collect it in the first place. Even with careful decision-making in the data collection and analysis realms, there is plenty of room for error. Your thoughts on selecting the appropriate data analysis methods are interesting as I realize the importance as well, but can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of methods from which to choose. Many researchers may not have the background of being properly trained and familiarized with many of the techniques. While researchers can consult with experts in the field and learn what they can on their own, it is still a daunting task when you consider the number of options, time it takes to deliberate, and how each case study can be affected differently by alternate means of data analysis methods.