Action research is a practical approach to professional inquiry in any social situation. It is initiated to solve an immediate problem and is a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals (working with others in teams) or as part of a “community of practice” to improve the way they address issues and solve problems.
Action research involves the process of actively participating in an organisation change situation whilst conducting research.
As its name suggests, action research concerns actors – those people carrying out their professional actions from day to day – and its purpose is to understand and to improve those actions. It is about trying to understand professional action from the inside; as a result, it is research that is carried out by practitioners on their own practice, not (as in other forms of research), done by someone on somebody else’s practice. Action research in education is grounded in the working lives of teachers, as they experience them.
As a summary:
- Action research is a practical way for individuals to explore the nature of their practice and to improve it.
- Action research encourages practitioners to become knowledge-makers, rather than merely knowledge-users.
- Action research uses action as a means of research; planned change is implemented, monitored and analysed.
- Action research proceeds in an action-reflection cycle or spiral (see diagram)
- The process can be messy; as research proceeds, wider links are likely to be identified.
- Action research is carried out by individuals, but these individuals may work collaboratively.
- Action researchers may use a variety of research methods, both qualitative and quantitative.
- Action researchers must ensure triangulation in their methods.