Dr. Margaret Riel (mriel@pepperdine.edu) 

Pepperdine University 

Syllabus for 650

(Note: for more information about my teaching of action research see the free action research online course at http://ccar.wikispaces.com)

Action research is a process of deep inquiry into ones practices in service of working toward goals that align with values. It involves taking action (or attempting change) and collecting data to analyze and understand the actions from the perspectives of others and in relationship to a projected outcome. It is cyclic or spirals as the researcher moves through a period of thoughtful planning of the action, to taking actions, then analyzing evidence collected to make sense of the actions. The final step--critical reflection on what was learned--is used to create conceptual tools for planning of new actions. As one progresses through cycles, there is a continuous process of refining methods, making new decisions about data collection and evolving strategies for data interpretation.

The understanding developed through reflection on earlier cycles shapes the process of inquiry often in new directions. Action research is then an iterative process which converges towards a better understanding of what happens as a result of actions taken. Because practices involve other people, action research is participatory, often high collaborative and employs both quantitative and qualitative methods. The primary object of research is the researcher. The goal is to evolve a theory of change that is highly sensitive to the factors that operate in a particular context.

The Overall Plan

This strand has four courses, 650 651 652 & 653and so we will be together throughout the year.

650--You will be learning about action research and exploring ideas for action research in your workplace. In doing so, you will work with your "learning circle" partners to help them frame their ideas. Part of your work will be to begin your search for references to help you plan. You will define a "field of action, " and in that field you will look for problems you care about. We will also review ethical issues involved in action research.

651-We will start by working on your problem context identifying reading topics and searching the literature for problems like the one(s) you have identified. You will be reading and reflecting on ideas of others as you work on developing the first draft of your literature review and overall plan for your action research. At the end of the semester all of you should have developed your research question. Some of you may start your first cycle.

652-- You will carry out your action research generally completing 2 cycles. This will involve planning, acting, collecting reactions, analyzing, and planning again. In most cases your will be reworking or adding to your literature review.

653--You will finish your final cycle, reflect on the whole process and organizing all of your notes and works into a final report and presentation for the cadre in July.

Then we hope that your work will be transformed into a publication, a presentation, and/or project proposal for the next year.

Course Objectives for 650

  1. Become familiar with the key concepts of action research methodology.
  2. Propose an initial outline of your plan for your action research project. This should particularly focus on your topic of interest and information about those from your workplace who will participate with you in this reflection on your practice.
  3. Learn more about the appropriate procedures for involving participants in research, particularly informed consent and guarantees of anonymity in reporting the results of your actions.
  4. Successfully complete the online IRB tutorial to familiarize you with ethical research methodology as it applies to both education and medicine. 
  5. Create a logic model and a forcefield analysis

Thinking with People

This graduate program is unusual in many ways some of which you may have discovered at cadre camp. (Love to hear your reactions to camp!). You will find that we have moved beyond student-centered learning to community-centered learning. A great deal of your educational experiences will be in and about communities. Your peers are not only co-learners. They are your learning consultants. Each of us will serve as a consultant to the other people in our community. We will listen to your descriptions of your communities of practice and your understandings of your identity within these communities. Then as a group we will engage you in a reflective process that helps you think about the way things are and how things might be. We will think with you about how best to engage with the people in your community to move you and them towards evolving goals.

In exchange for this work, you will be able to focus the "community mind" on your work. You will have the collective intelligence of our community to think about your membership in your professional communities. We will, as a group, help you reflect, analyze, explore, understand the changes that are taking place. This process is difficult to do alone, but you will not be alone. You will be thinking with people. We will help and support you as you find your way toward new understandings of yourself and others within your circles of work. You will be engaged in a form of self-reflective practice with all of us studying the reflection you see.

Your Action Research Website and E-Portfolio

You will need to set up a home for your action research. Since it a yearlong project it makes sense to have the site continue from class to class (rather than setting up separate webspace for 650, 65, 652 and 653 (like you might for your other courses). Students find it works best to create an action research website and link it to opening page and continue to work in the same space from semester to semester. We will be revising work done as we go along. The site will evolve with your work. For this semester, you will add the following to your website:

  1. Select a "Field of Action" and exploring problems
  2. Discuss Informed Consent
  3. Begin your review of literature as part of a planning process
  4. Begin your Action Research Journal (Blog)
  5. Create your Force Field analysis
  6. Create your logic model

University Policies

Graduate Level Writing

MAINTAINING COPIES OF ASSIGNED COURSE WORK FOR PROGRAM EVALUATION: The Graduate School of Education and Psychology evaluates its programs on an ongoing basis. The data from such evaluations provide us with information to help improve the quality of the educational experience we provide our students. In addition, the data are used by our accrediting bodies, such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). California Council on Teacher Credentials, and the American Psychological Association (APA), to make decisions as to whether we can maintain our accredited status with these respective associations. To this end, we may archive copies of the papers, examinations, exercises, etc. that students complete as part of their required course work so that we can track if students appear to be meeting the objectives of the program in which they are enrolled. Names will be that your course work not be archived for evaluation purposes, please let me know immediately so that I can make such a notation in the files I keep for each student who enrolls in my courses. You have writing help from Pepperdine by contacting the writing support center .

CODE OF CONDUCT: The Graduate School of Education and Psychology strives to create a learning environment which is respectful of the rights and dignity of all members our learning community. Students are expected to conduct themselves in a collegial, respectful, and professional manner while participating in all activities associated with this course. Students are expected to exhibit behaviors and attitudes consistent with appropriate ethical-legal standards, and to refrain from any fraudulent, dishonest, or harmful behaviors such as plagiarism, cheating, or harassment, which compromise the integrity of the academic standards of the university and/or impact the safety and security of fellow students, staff, and faculty. Failure to comply with appropriate standards of conduct may result in a grade of “F” in the course and dismissal from the program.

RESPECTFUL DISCOURSE: The Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology values and respects the perspectives and diversity of our students in regard to ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, age, and ability status. Thus, it is critical that classroom discussions include respectful dialogue about any issue that impacts the lives of our students, and the individuals, families, and communities that our students serve.

PLAGIARISM: Plagiarism is commonly understood in the academic community to involve taking the ideas or words of another and passing them off as one’s own. When paraphrasing or quoting an author directly, one must credit the source appropriately. Plagiarism is not tolerated at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology.

DISABILITY STATEMENT: Any student with a documented disability (physical, learning, or psychological) needing academic accommodations should contact the Disability Services Office (Malibu Campus, Tyler Campus Center 225, 310.506.6500) as early in the semester as possible. All discussions will remain confidential. Please visit http://www.pepperdine.edu/disabilityservices/ for additional information.es/ for additional information. rdine.edu/disabilityservices/ for additional information.