Action Research is a method of systematic enquiry that teachers undertake as researchers of their own practice. The enquiry involved in Action Research is often visualised as a cyclical process, two examples of which are shown below.
The start of the process is usually an issue or situation that, as a teacher, you want to change. You will be supported in turning this 'interesting problem' into a 'researchable question' and then developing actions to try out. You will draw on the findings of other researchers to help develop actions and interpret the consequences.
As an action researcher, or teacher-researcher, you will generate research. Enquiring into your practice will inevitably lead you to question the assumptions and values that are often overlooked during the course of normal school life. Assuming the habit of inquiry can become an ongoing commitment to learning and developing as a practitioner. As a teacher-researcher you assume the responsibility for being the agent and source of change.
Altrichter, H., Posch, P. and Somekh, B. (1993) Teachers Investigate Their Work: An introduction to the methods of action research (Routledge: London).
Altrichter, H., Posch, P. and Somekh, B. (2007, 2nd edition) Teachers Investigate Their Work: An introduction to action research across the professions (Routledge: London).
People and expertise
We have highly experienced educationalists and researchers who are able to support you with school and classroom based action research. This support can take a range of forms from whole school teaching team presentations on Action Research to individual mentoring with classroom projects. We have found that setting up small, collaborative working groups is both supportive and effective, but please contact us to discuss your individual needs.
Find out about our experts and some suggested topics based on their current Action Research activities.
Dr Malcolm Reed
Previously an English teacher and PGCE tutor, Malcolm Reed teaches and supervises extensively on doctoral programmes in the fields of sociocultural theory and narrative research, writes about classroom culture from both standpoints, and is President of the International Society for Cultural and Activity Research (ISCAR). His work with Action Research includes:
- approaches and theoretical frameworks for researching classroom activity,
- observation as method,
- different ways of writing on qualitative research.
Dr Alf Coles
Previously a mathematics teacher, head of department and assistant headteacher, Alf Coles now works as a PGCE tutor, MEd tutor and supervises doctoral students. He writes in the field of mathematics education, recent publications have focused on the role of the facilitator in leading professional development and on teaching mathematics as if the planet matters. His work with Action Research includes:
- mathematics education,
- working with collaborative groups of teachers,
- using video for teacher development.
Dr Frances Giampapa
Frances Giampapa is a Lecturer in Education (TESOL/Applied Linguistics). Her research interests focus on the migration, language and identities nexus across multilingual contexts. She has experience working in collaborative partnerships with schools in Canada (see the Multiliteracies Project) and in Bristol. She has published in the areas of language and identities in multilingual contexts, multiliteracies, and ethnographic field methods. Her work with Action Research includes:
- the use of ethnographic and participatory approaches to researching multilingualism inside/outside classrooms with teachers, students, families and other stakeholders in the community.
When schools are starting out on action research we are happy to tailor our Continuing Professional Development offering to focus on supporting teachers and allied education professionals to develop as action researchers. We can also award credit for educational research work under our advanced offering of postgraduate, professional development programmes. In the first instance a member of staff at the School of Education can:
- come to facilitate a staff meeting as a one-off prompt to start a project;
- help you to design and undertake a research enquiry;
- visit your school on a regular basis to support a collaborative working group.
Please contact us to further discuss your needs.
Action research at master's and doctoral level
The following routes into advanced study are available:
- Master's - this is a one year full-time or three to five year part-time taught programme.
- Doctoral - we offer study at doctoral both through individual research for a PhD and through the largely taught EdD programme. Action Research is a regular feature of both doctoral programmes.
The key feature common to all Action Research projects is that it involves practitioner researchers planning for and reflecting on the outcomes of a change in their practice in an ongoing cycle of plan-act-reflect. Some examples follow:
- Piloting research with a local secondary school to explore through observation the activity of learners’ non-compliance.
- Using a Participatory Action Research approach to develop therapeutic interventions for young people who experience social and emotional difficulties in a secondary school.
- Supporting a collaborative group of mathematics teachers working on a MEd module as part of a research project into widening participation in higher education.
- Using an ethnographic approach to investigate the ways in which teachers’ use the multilingual and multicultural resources of migrant children and their families as assets for learning in school.
- Supporting a collaborative group of NQTs in science in developing and evaluating their practice in differentiation to include learners with English as Additional Language, Gifted and Talented learners and learners with Special Educational Needs.
Details of master's and doctorate tuition fees.
Tel: 0117 331 4330