What is Action Research?

Action research is a model of professional development where educators study student learning related to their own teaching. Richard A. Schmuck (1997) compares action research to looking into a mirror at oneself taking action. Conducting action research provides educators with an avenue to reflect on one’s own teaching practices and engage in self-directed learning with the ultimate goal of improving student learning. In order for students to reach optimal learning, teachers must continuously build upon their own knowledge of student learning and intentionally study their practices that are being implemented in the classroom.

“Action research is planned inquiry – a deliberate search for truth, information, or knowledge” (Schmuck, pg 28, 1997). As a teacher, specific questions to reflect on include:
• Do you purposefully observe and assess your students to determine areas of change?

• Do you design instructional plans to actualize the change?
• Do you continuously monitor your instruction to ensure that the change has occurred to impact student learning?

These are practices that teachers use when they conduct action research. Jeffery Glanz (2003) refers to action research as “disciplined inquiry”. When educators conduct action research, they are deliberate about the data they collect, the decisions that they make, and the lessons that they teach.

“Action (teacher) research is a natural extension of good teaching. Observing students closely, analyzing their needs, and adjusting the curriculum to fit the needs of all students have always been important skills demonstrated by fine teachers” (Hubbard & Power, pg 3, 1999). When teachers conduct action research, they ask themselves a critical question, “Am I making an impact on student learning?” When teachers notice a breakdown in learning, they systematically and intentionally plan instruction to meet the needs of their students. The primary goal of action research is to improve student learning by developing and refining the skill of teaching. This is empowering for teachers, giving them opportunities to grow within their professional role and responsibilities.

Action research is a continuous and reflective process where educators make instructional decisions in their classrooms based on student needs reflected by classroom data. The process of action research involves four phases: identifying a classroom problem, developing and implementing an action research plan, collecting and analyzing data, and using and sharing results. Action research never really ends because learning is a cyclical process. An action researcher is always observing, analyzing, designing, assessing, and adjusting. The cyclical nature of action research provides teachers with ongoing opportunities to reflect on and refine their own teaching practices.