Action research

A group of academic staff involved in action research with the goal of identifying issues, designing interventions, evaluating the outcomes and in so doing improving their practice.

Members: 26
Latest Activity: Feb 18, 2014

An introduction to Action Research

Over the last two years the academic literacies team in Te Puna Ako has been involved in a number of action research projects with various departments. These have included animal care, electrotech, the library, community development, automotive, foundation nursing and TPA. Most of the lecturers involved are putting the finishing touches to their findings and we are planning for the next step of publishing these.

On the 30th of November from 2:30-4:30 at Oakridge we are having an introduction to action research in anticipation of a number of projects starting up in 2011. We plan to make the project a significant institutional initiative and final presentation of the research will be at a special awards event. As in previous years, Eileen Piggot-Irvine from the Department of Education, will take us through the process of action research and supervise the various projects. The session on the 30th will introduce the basics of action research, start you thinking about how it could benefit your teaching and what question you might like to deal with.

This is an initial meeting; for some it's a chance for you to see if action research is a good fit for your professional development, for others it will serve to scope out a specific research question. There may be others in your department who you think would be interested. Please feel free to pass this invite on to them.

Beginning with Action Research
Changing Practice

Action Research Project Overview
From Associate Prof. Eileen Piggot-Irvine
Director, NZ Action Research and Review Centre, Dept. of Ed., Unitec

This Action Research Project offers lecturers/tutors the opportunity to become involved in a small development project that aims to guide staff to improve one aspect of their teaching. The tight focus is deliberate – the latest research on development strongly suggests that ‘DOING FEWER THINGS WELL’ is key. A development approach which has shown great outcomes for such development is action research (AR) and your projects will follow this model (see diagram over).

Your AR project will involve working in a small group – all members will have a similar topic chosen for improvement. In summary, the phases for action research, and an example application, include:
• Reconnaissance, to determine the existing situation with the topic.
For example, if your objective is to improve the way you help students to write reports, you would complete a brief review of literature/background material on the topic of ‘writing reports’ in your group in order to distil the key indicators for effectiveness for the topic. You might also examine how your own students perceive the way that you help them to write reports based on the indicators for effectiveness. You would then analyse the responses, reflect on these with your AR group, and record what you need to improve on.
• Implementation, to plan for and carry out changes indicated by your reconnaissance analysis.
This would be done within your teaching classes, but the AR group would act as a sounding board for you to bounce ideas off and reflect on your progress whilst you are completing this phase. In your AR group you would also collectively record your progress in a way that looks for similar responses, issues etc. This record will become part of your final project report.
• Evaluation, to analyse the impact of the implementation phase changes.
Data would be collected to determine how effective the changes/improvements you have made have been. Again, you might then analyse the responses, reflect on these in your AR group, and record a comparative analysis of the way in which your different classes have improved.
• Reporting and Presentation, to draw together the project findings. A formal report will be written (and presented) from the group AR project.

At all stages of the AR projects you will be given substantial guidelines and assistance.


Two dates to mark

We will be meeting from 9:00-12:00 on the 2nd of March to collaborate on writing our ethics applications.  These are due with the committee on the 9th of March.


We also have our second full day of PD on the 27th of April.  This is intentionally during the study break so that teaching doesn't keep you from attending.


Both venues yet to be arranged  but I'll let you know in due course


Action research - Queensland University of Technology experience

In the 1990s QUT successfully ran an action research programme as part of their professional development


Key features:

Based on a vision of staff collaboration and commitment to continuous learning
Run by the Teaching and Educational Development Institute of the University (TEDI)
Team rather than individual projects
Teams included combination of academic and general staff
Long-term initiative – lasted nine years
Dual focussed: strategic issues in teaching and learning and in management
Funding for academics for action research on teaching, not just ‘pure’ research – some seeding grants from DEET, Dept of Education, Employment and Training
Introduction of team mentors in 1995
Some key findings: 
The program provided relevant and quality staff development for participants 
Reflection was identified as the most important aspect of AL:  it led to further and improved
action ; it was recognised as a key factor contributing to the quality of decisions; reflection
was seen as a circuit-breaker which ensured a ‘deep understanding of issues’ and initiated a
‘deeper level of action’ ; it was deemed most useful for addressing goals which are complex
and have no immediate solutions 
Collaboration and diversity were identified as important contributors to quality outcomes

Resources in the library
There's a huge range of material on research in the library.  Here are a few books selected by Eileen

Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2007). Research methods in education (6th ed.). Abingdon: Routledge.

Booth, W., Colomb, G., & Williams, J. (Eds.) (1995). The craft of research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Creswell, J. W. (2002). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Wilkinson, D. (2000). The researcher's toolkit: The complete guide to practitioner research. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Krueger, R. A. (1994). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. London: Sage Publications.


Questions from ethics applications

One of the questions that cropped up from the two applications that were put in for the February ethics committee was

"If you are the teacher and you are doing the interviews, how do you address the power differential interfering with the responses of students."

So if you face this question once you've submitted your application or want to preempt it, here's an answer from Eileen


Action research has, as one of its core elements, a commitment to openness about the action researcher and participant relationship.  Because the approach is that of the teacher as action researcher improving their own practice it is normal for the action researcher to be honest with students about why they are doing the research and that they will be collecting data for the purpose of improvement of teaching and learning.  The action research literature covers this issue fulsomely.  See for example,

Brydon-Miller, M., Greenwood, D., & Maguire, P. (2003). Editorial. Action research, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.  9-28.

Cardno, C. & Piggot-Irvine, E. (1996). Incorporating action research in school senior management training, International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 10, No. 5, pp. 19-24.

Dick, B. (2001). Action research: Action and research. In S. Sankaran, B. Dick, R. Passfield & P. Swepson (Eds.), Effective change management using action learning and action research: Concepts, frameworks, processes, applications., Lismore N.S.W.: Southern Cross University Press, Australia, pp. 19-28.

Guba, E.G. & Lincoln, Y.S. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage,  pp. 105-117.

Piggot-Irvine, E. & Bartlett, B. (2008). Evaluating action research. Wellington: NZCER.


TPA's research bag lunch - feel free to come along


Nau mai, haere mai!
Te Puna Ako 2011 Research 'Bag Lunch' Seminar Series
You and your teams are warmly invited to attend our 2011 seminar series on research around teaching and learning. All seminars will be held from 12.00-1.00pm in the TPA 'Lounge' in Building 180:2001 (see schedule below). Bring your 'bag lunch' and feel free to make a cuppa when you get here. Last year's seminars were a great opportunity to put down your work for an hour and to think and talk about research with a fine bunch of colleagues. Please come along.
If you are involved in research around any aspect of teaching and learning, or even if you are in the planning stage, please consider presenting at a seminar. This year we're aiming to offer 2-3 presentations of 15-20 minutes in each 1 hour seminar, followed by a combined discussion Q&A. It will be low-key and friendly, and we're interested in hearing from you about any sort of research, large or small. Previous presenters have found this a great way to get some feedback and discussion on their work.
And if you know someone at Unitec who is doing some interesting research around teaching and learning, please think about shoulder-tapping them to come along and present their work. We're keen to hear about it.
The schedule is as follows:
Tuesday 5th April
Wednesday 4th May
Thursday 2nd June
Tuesday 5th July
Wednesday 3rd August
Thursday 1st Sept
Tuesday 4th October
Wednesday 2nd November
Please contact Simon Nash if you are interested in presenting, with a seminar title and indicating your preferred seminar date(s).
As the schedule of presenters starts to fill up, we'll send out a further details on the seminars. Look out for flyers as well.

Discussion Forum

our research question - eLCC Community 2.0 project

Nicoletta and I are conducting an action research project evaluating the eLCC* Community of Practice in terms of autonomy and sustainability.  We will be collecting and collating reflections and…Continue

Tags: community, eLCC

Started by Tabitha Roder Mar 6, 2011.

Ethics and Action Research Dilemmas

I'm having some doubts about the approach I'm following: 1)How can I talk in detail about my implementation phase, until I've completed a needs analysis in the reconnaissance phase? (E.g., say I…Continue

Started by Marcus Thompson Mar 5, 2011.

My research idea 1 Reply

I'm planning to investigate how to improve older Chinese language learners'  English speaking skills.I'd like to set up partnerships between these learners and volunteers from the local retirement…Continue

Started by Marlene White. Last reply by Marcus Thompson Mar 1, 2011.

Still working out my focus... 4 Replies

...but my main question is something like this:What strategies are most effective in supporting Saudi students’ academic development in mainstream, degree-level programmes?Two concerns I have at this…Continue

Started by Marcus Thompson. Last reply by Marcus Thompson Feb 24, 2011.

Comment Wall

Comment by Natalie Savery on February 18, 2011 at 11:59
Keith, Miranda and I are investigating the question:

Can a learning management system tool ( ie: Moodle lesson ) be used to support LLN embedding and raise reading levels in a level 3, blended learning course (Business and Professional Skills -CBAC)?

Comment by Marcus Thompson on February 18, 2011 at 13:54
Sounds like an interesting project, Natalie.

I wonder if you need some comparison between the effectiveness of LLN embedding with and without an LMS -- i.e. is using an LMS more effective for raising reading levels than other forms of LLN embedding?
Comment by Marcus Thompson on February 21, 2011 at 8:20
I've started trawling through the journals. Since so many of us are language teachers, I'm wondering what others have in mind for target journals.

Anyone know of a good language teaching journal with examples of action research?

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