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  • Language in India www.languageinindia.com ISSN 1930-2940 13:10 October 2013

    Dr. Deepika Nelson

    Action Research: An Appropriate Research Paradigm for Practitioners 183

    Action Research: An Appropriate Research Paradigm for Practitioners

    Dr. Deepika Nelson ==================================================================

    Language in India www.languageinindia.com ISSN 1930-2940 Vol. 13:10 October 2013

    ==================================================================

    Abstract

    In the recent years action research (AR) has become increasingly popular in second

    language teaching sphere. It has been established as an appropriate research paradigm for

    educational, professional, managerial and organizational development. Action research (AR) is

    collaborative, critical and self-critical inquiry by practitioners (e.g. teachers, managers) into a

    major problem or issue or concern in their own practice. It is an important way to extend the

    teaching skills and develop more understanding as teachers, of our classrooms and students. In

    this paper the focus is firstly identifying some of the key concepts in AR, defining AR and

    principles and procedures of Action research and focusing on the pedagogical issues.

    Key words: Action research, principle, procedure, pedagogical issues

    Introduction

    Action research has a complex history because it is not a single academic discipline but

    an approach to research that has emerged over time from a broad range of fields. Action research

    challenges the claims of a positivistic view of knowledge which holds that in order to be

    credible, research must remain objective and value-free. Somekh (1993) viewed action research

    as a flexible methodology, not merely in terms of being eclectic in research methods, but more

    fundamentally in needing to adapt to the social and political situation in which it is employed. As

    university academics we work in a fast-changing environment, which puts competing pressures

    on us including the need to be excellent at teaching, research and administration. Action

    Research aims to solve a particular teaching-learning problem that has been identified. It is a

    reflective process that improves the teaching practice and the curriculum. In order to do action

    research it is necessary to carry out a rigorous study in which the problem has to be clearly

    specified. An action plan has to be described and carried out, and finally an evaluation has to be

    contemplated to show if the decisions taken were the adequate ones.

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  • Language in India www.languageinindia.com ISSN 1930-2940 13:10 October 2013

    Dr. Deepika Nelson

    Action Research: An Appropriate Research Paradigm for Practitioners 184

    The work of Kurt Lewin (1946), who researched extensively on social issues, is often

    described as a major landmark in the development of action research as a methodology. Lewins

    work was followed by that of Stephen Corey and others in the USA, who applied this

    methodology for researching into educational issues.

    In this paper Action Research: An Appropriate Research Paradigm for

    Practitioners. the focus is firstly on identifying some of the key concepts in AR, defining AR

    and principles and procedures of Action research and focusing on the pedagogical issues.

    Definitely AR is not just a simple question of following a fixed pattern to solve a

    straightforward technical problem in an individual classroom. The aims of AR are various. It

    may be means, end, theory, teacher, institute and society oriented. Language teachers all around

    the world want to be effective teachers who provide the best learning opportunities for their

    students. Action research (AR) can be a very valuable way to extend our teaching skills.

    Meyer (2000) maintains that action researchs strength lies in its focus on generating

    solutions to practical problems and its ability to empower practitioners, by getting them to

    engage with research and the subsequent development or implementation activities. Therefore

    Action research is used to refer to ways of investigating professional experience which link

    practice and the analysis of practice into a single productive and continuously developing

    sequence, and which link researchers and research participants into a single community of

    interested colleagues.

    Action Research and Its Types

    Hopkins (2002) maintains that action research combines a substantive act with a research

    procedure, and that it is action disciplined by enquiry and a personal attempt at understanding,

    while engaged in a process of improvement and reform.

    Action research, as defined by Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury (2001), is a

    participatory, democratic process concerned with developing practical knowing in the pursuit of

    worthwhile human purposes, grounded in a participatory worldview which we believe is

    emerging at this historical moment. It seeks to bring together action and reflection, theory and

    practice, in participation with others, in the pursuit of practical solutions to issues of pressing

  • Language in India www.languageinindia.com ISSN 1930-2940 13:10 October 2013

    Dr. Deepika Nelson

    Action Research: An Appropriate Research Paradigm for Practitioners 185

    concern to people, and more generally the flourishing of individual persons and their

    communities.

    As per the definition given by Grundy and Kemmis (1988): Action research is research

    into practice, by practitioners, for practitioners In action research, all actors involved in the

    research process are equal participants, and must be involved in every stage of the research

    The kind of involvement required is collaborative involvement. It requires a special kind of

    communicationwhich has been described as symmetrical communication which allows all

    participants to be partners of communication on equal terms Collaborative participation in

    theoretical, practical and political discourse is thus a hallmark of action research and the action

    researcher. It is related to the ideas of reflective practice and the teacher as researcher and

    involves taking a self-reflective, critical, and systematic approach to exploring your own

    teaching contexts.

    For action research to take its deserved place in professional inquiry its proponents need

    to address the question of its academic acceptance, status and credibilityan accolade

    traditionally awarded according to scientific rigor. Burns (1999) explains it as a self-reflective,

    systematic and critical approach to enquiry by participants who are at the same time members of

    the research community. The aim is to identify problematic situations or issues considered by the

    participants to be worthy of investigation in order to bring about critically informed changes in

    practice. Action research is underpinned by democratic principles in that ownership of change is

    invested in those who conduct the research. The action part of AR is to get involved in a

    premeditated way in the problematic situation to bring improvements in practice. These are ones

    based on information (datum) that an action researcher collects systematically. Consequently, the

    changes made in the teaching condition arise from concrete information and not on assumptions.

    A teacher who is philosophical, reflective and dedicated to developing as thinking

    professional, AR is an appealing way to look more closely at classroom issues or to investigate

    into teaching dilemmas. Technical action research aims to improve effectiveness of educational

    or managerial practice. The practitioners are co-opted and depend greatly on the researcher as a

    facilitator. Practical action research, in addition to effectiveness, aims at the practitioners

    understanding and professional development. The researchers role is Socratic and to encourage

  • Language in India www.languageinindia.com ISSN 1930-2940 13:10 October 2013

    Dr. Deepika Nelson

    Action Research: An Appropriate Research Paradigm for Practitioners 186

    practical deliberation and self reflection on the part of the practitioners. Action research is

    emancipatory when it aims not only at technical and practical improvement and the participants

    better understanding, along with transformation and change within the existing boundaries and

    conditions, but also at changing the system itself or those conditions which impede desired

    improvement in the system/organization. As stated in Table 1.1

    Table 1.1 Types of action research and their main characteristics (Zuber-Skerritt 1992:12) S.No Type of action research Aims Facilitators Role Relationship between facilitator

    and participants

    1 Technical Effectiveness/ efficiency

    of educational practice

    Professional development

    Outside expert Co-option (of practitioners who

    depend on facilitator)

    2. Practical As (1) above

    Practitioners

    understanding

    Transformation of their

    consciousness

    Socratic role,

    encouraging

    participation and

    self-reflection

    Cooperation

    (process consultancy

    3. Emancipatory As (2) above Participants

    emancipation from

    the dictates of tradition,

    self-deception, coercion

    Their critique of

    bureaucratic

    systematization

    Transfo