Action Research

What is action research?

Action research is a term which refers to a practical way of looking at your own classroom practice and identifying good practice and areas to improve.

In action research you are the practitioner.  It is self enquiry whereby you think about your work, carryout systematic investivgation into your practice and develop a better understanding of classroom behaviours/systems so thatyou can continue to develop your teaching and learning.

The research process is open ended.  It begins with an idea that you develop.  The process follows through the idea, reviewing what happens and checking whether it is what you predicted.  Action research is deiven by the practitioner in order to answer the question “How do I improve my work?”  Studies show that the most effective way to develop new knowledge is through partnership with others wh oare equally interested in the process of learning.  Through dissemination new knowledge evolves.

How does it work?

  • Review of current practice
  • Identify a rational/reason to explore this area of practice
  • Identify ways that could change/improve this area of practice
  • Try it out
  • Record what happens
  • Modify classroom practice and adopt new tools/strategies (try other ways of working if the changes you desire are not evident)
  • Monitor what happens and what methods you used to analyse the research
  • Review and evaluate the modified action(s)

Action research does not adopt one methodology nor does it necessitate detailed statistical analysis.  Your rationale for research could be supported by qualitative or quantitative “data”.

The practice of action research appreciates the classroom environment and that people are unpredictable.  The process of action research follows a basic cycle.

Action Planning

Through action planning you create your own critical questions about your own practice and find the answers yourself.  Other colleagues can suport and advise, but only you can determine what is right for you.  This process of self reflection itself is very powerful.

A basic action plan asks the following questions (from Jack Whitehead)

  • What issue am I interested in researching?
  • Why do I iwant to research this issue?
  • What kind of evidence exists to show this is an area that could be improved?
  • What can I do?
  • What evidence can I gather to show the changes I made are having an influence?
  • How can I ensure my judgements are reasonable fair/accurate?
  • How will I change my practice in the light of my evaluation?

Benefits of Action Research

  • Helps professional growth
  • Supports learning
  • Dissemination of good practice
  • Improved dialogue and understanding between colleagues
  • Can result in professional recognition and/or accreditation

Why are you interested?

Identify a rationale for research.  What is happening in your classroom that you would like to change?  What values/behaviours/processes/strategies are in place that you feel imhibit best practice?

Evidence to show you have reason to research

Provide evidence so that others can relate to your desire to change things.  Gather data about the situation, this can be a diary, notes, journal, audio or video tapes, surveys, attitude scales, pictures etc.  You might use several methods at different times.  You will use this base data to ascertain whether your modifications have had the desired impact or not.

What can I do?

You need to imagine your options and discuss with others how you could effect change.  When you have decided a strategy try it out, if it works you will probably want to pursue it, if it doesn’t work you will probably try something else.

Evidence to show influence

This is your second set of data.  You could use the same or different methodology you initially used.  You should obsereve the data to see whether there is an improvement in the situation.  You might also show a development in your own thinking and learning.

Explaining Education Influence

You are trying to show a development of influence, showing how people can work in new ways that are more effective.

Ensure judgements are reasonably fair

By providing evidence to support your judgements others may support you by acting as critical friends or a validation group.  Through this dialogue you will develop an appreciation of whether your claims are fair/reasonable.

Modification of Practice

When you see the changes you have affected you will probably carry on working in this new way.  This might encourage you to address other areas and this is the nature of developmental practice.


  • Does the action research have headteachers’ consent?
  • Does the action research identify CPD needs as identified by Partnership schools?
  • How many schools are involved in the research? (Priority being given to collaborative projects).
  • How will partner shools work together?
  • Is data effectively used?
  • Is the action research rationale robust?
  • Are there clear and appropriate success criteria?
  • Is the timescale appropriate?
  • Is the monitoring strategy appropriate?
  • Are there clear opportunities for dissemination of good practice within each school?
  • Are there clear opportunities for dissemination of good practice within Partnership Schools?
  • Are there appropriate evaluation mechanisms?
  • Is the research beneficial to Parnership Schools?
  • Are positive outcomes sustainable?
  • Is there value for money?
  • Is the research team prepared to share their work through a Partnership Conference?