Learning Forward – Part 7: Action Research

Action Research is a professional’s systematic, intentional study of their own classroom and workplace practices.  Teachers who collaborate and reflect have a direct impact on student achievement.

This form of professional development takes teachers beyond their own classroom and into each other’s.  Action research definitely makes for a great Professional Learning Community (PLC).

There are five components to the inquiry cycle:

  • Wondering (Question) Development
  • Data Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Synthesis/Sharing
  • Action

The process begins with the articulation of a wondering – a burning question that you, an inquirer, have about your practice.  Explore something you are passionate about.  Engaging in teaching and simultaneously studying the act as you are in the midst of it can be challenging.  For that reason, inquirers need to be passionate about what they choose to explore through inquiry. Being passionate about your topic will provide you with the energy needed to sustain your research over time.  Your question development should build upon school goals and/or your individual professional development goals.  The goals of everything you do as a teacher relate to student learning and growth.  It is important to ensure that the topic you’re wondering about relates to student learning.

Once the wondering is complete and the question is developed, the data collection begins.  Building an inquiry plan helps you complete the data collection. Typically this will include the background, purpose, your question, a description of the intervention or activity you plan to try, the ways you will collect the data, and a timeline.

Often, we collect data and don’t do anything with it.  Data analysis is a key component to the success of action research.  Building a story that describes your findings as an inquirer is based on a close and careful examination of your data.  There are two types of data.  Quantitative data takes the form of numbers.  Qualitative data takes the form of words or images.  Typically, quantitative data is examined in charts, tables and graphs.  Qualitative data can be examined in many ways, for example: reading, condensing, extracting, categorizing, and grouping.  You gain meaning form qualitative data by comparing and contrasting.

Sharing your inquiry is important.  Creating a space and time for inquirers to come together and share the knowledge they’ve generated through the process of inquiry with one another and others allows more people to benefit from your inquiry.

Are you conducting action research Professional Learning communities?  What are your successes?  What are your challenges?


Mary MitchellMary Mitchell is an instructor who has held several positions at FLVS over the years. A National Board Certified Teacher, she has been recognized as a Teacher of the Year for FLVS, the United States Distance Learning Association, and Discovery Middle School in Orange County, FL. She has written articles on topics ranging from computer image processing to teacher training for the online classroom.



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