Action Research: Concepts, Methodology and Applications

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Belén de J. Lavín A. is pursuing a Master's Degree in Bilingual Education. The blog is mostly in Spanish here:

so here is an English Translation started off with google translate and then improved by Wiki




With this work I intend to clarify ideas about elements of Action Research, starting from Colen & Manion, considering some ideas from the text of McKernan, and concluding with a new personal definition of Action Research.

Action Research vs Applied Research

More than once, Colen & Manion highlight the differences between Action Research and Applied Research, which I will try to compile in the next table. These differences, as the authors say, could eventually be diffuse with Action Research involving a much larger population, and that is why it is necessary to consider theme all, in order to guard against loosing the actual methodology.

Studies a specific problem, in a specific scenario. Seeks to establish relationships and prove theories, studying a large number of cases.
Free interpretation of the Scientific Method. Very hard on the application of the Scientific Method (variability control, precise sample).
Findings will be reserved generally to the environment where the Research is held. It has the aim of generalizing its findings.
None or little control over independent variables. Strong variable control.
Restricted and non-representative sample. Precise sample.

Concepts and Methodology

There are two very interesting concepts by Blum, the diagnostic step and the therapeutic step, that mean, for said author, the resolution of Action Research; while the first one includes the analysis of the problem and the formulation of hypothesis, the second one is the place to experiment said hypothesis, under a conscious direction. It’s almost obvious, since this point, the empiricism of the method, since the therapeutic step, in its conscious character, would matter-of-factly shape the action on the results, if we hold on to the approach.

As part of the Characteristics section, we learn that the main feature of Action-Research is that is a procedure in the act, in an immediate situation. Colen & Manion let us know, in a discrete parenthesis, possible mechanisms for Action – Research: questionnaires, diaries, interviews, case studies; all of these must be constantly applied, evaluated and taken in account for the innovation and benefit of the experiment immediately, taking advantage already of the flexibility and adaptability of Action – Research.

The methodology suggested by Colen and Manion, in the Procedures apart, consts of eight steps, as a flexible and adaptable frame for each particular situation, with its particular problem and looking for particular results.

  • Problem identification, evaluation and formulation.
  • Preliminar study and negotiations between stakeholders.
  • Literature review of comparative research.
  • Redefining the problem and statement of underlying assumptions.
  • Selection of research procedures.
  • Selecting assessment procedures.
  • Implementation of the project on varying time periods.
  • Interpretation of data, inferences drawn and the project assessment

Then it is possible to do a reca of all the research and its results for diffusion.

It is worth noting also the importance which contains a comprehensive explanation of the project objectives, so all of the involved people sape their ideas about the investigation they are in, including relationships and how far in flexibility it may reach according to the context where it happens.

Scope and Limitations of Action-Research

The limitations can be considered in terms of apparent disadvantages compared to applied research.

As indicated by Colen and Manion, the implementation of Action-Research is appropriate when looking for specific knowledge, for a specific problem in a specific situation, it can even be a modification for an existing system. This would apply as long as we have at hand the possibility of further progress with relevant feedback. Examples, not unique nor exclusive, application in educational research are:

  • Teaching Methods
  • Learning Strategies
  • Assessment procedures
  • Direction and control

Colen and Manion versus McKernan

The texts are not exactly comparable, but complementary. McKernan offers many definitions of Action - Research and a number of bases for its use, with its development through history, with various momodels that the scientists of Action - Research have developed over time.

Colen & Manion, quote Hasley (as McKernan) to define Action - Research as follows: action research is the small-scale intervention in the functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such intervention. Then, from texts of research that uses this method, they mention the features that I think should be included in any definition of Action-Research, that it is : situational, (usually) collaborative, participatory and self-evaluative.

Colen and Manion, in common with McKernan, emphasize the objectivity of Action - Research for the natural environment, as well as its collaborative aspect, but extending it to include teachers from a school, outside advisers, researchers and sponsors.

On the other hand, McKernan offers multiple Action - Research models, while Colen and Manion provide a sound model for the development of an approximately eclectic practice of this methodology.

Conclusion: Developing the Concept of Action - Research

Finally, I add my personal concept of Action - Research, adding the defining characteristics that Colen & Manion presented in his Introduction:

Research - Action is the practice of scientific procedures implicitly including our selves in the specific situation studied, observing the environment and its individuals, detailing the particularities arising from the constant testing of hypotheses renewed due to the findings of the cyclical record of the results, taking in account the own participation, the one of the collaboratiors, and the group in question's, until we consider feasible to transfer these findings to similar situations in the environment of our research.

posted by meb wannabe at 1:12 pm 0 comments labels: research seminar i