Time frames for Doing Action Research

Facilitated by the Learning Circle Participants

We are interested in knowing more about how action research projects fit into the learning experiences in colleges and universities. We have provided a short survey for you to complete and then we invite you to add your example to the ones that have been provided here. Initially the members of the learning circle provided the examples, but we hope that there will be many more added in after ARNA 2018.

Examples: How Action Research Fits into University Programs

Lamar University Shared by Donna Azodi

Lamar University’s Masters of Educational Administration Program is an accelerated on-line program. The program duration is 18 months and is comprised of 12 five-week courses. The action research course, EDLD 5301, is the second course in the program. This course provides students with the foundation for the concepts of action research as well as a blueprint for developing their action research study, which is a capstone project for the program. As students in this program are aspiring school leaders, the action research focus is on improving learning within the school. Students work with their campus mentor and colleagues to identify the issue they will address through action research. Each week of the five-week course provides a stepping stone to the tasks required in the next week.

The first week addresses the concepts of action research, and requires students to explore needs and strengths within the programs and practices on the campus. Students conduct a poll asking colleagues to identify their top two or three concerns on the campus. They also review the policies, practices and programs that support student needs across their campus. At the end of the first week students discuss with their campus mentor a possible topic for their action research.

In the second week, students meet with a group of stakeholders who are familiar with their topic for action research and conduct the 5 Why process to dig deeper in identifying the root cause of the problem they are addressing. Students begin to review literature about their topic and also view a video of a local high school principal discussing how action research can be used to address problem solving and support campus improvement.

During the third week, students work to develop a final draft of their research question(s) and title as well as continuing to review relevant literature. Once the research questions are developed, in their fourth week, students develop their research design plan identifying the methodology, data that will be collected and the process(es) by which the data will be analyzed. In the fifth and last week of the course, students write their first draft of the first three sections of their action research report; introduction, review of literature and research design. Students are provided a template that provides a guided learning process in writing their action research report.

Students are provided action research discussion board prompts in their next four courses to provide on-going collegial support as they continue to develop their action research study. Professors respond to the discussion board responses providing students with feedback on their questions and progress in their action research process. In the seventh course, students receive feedback on their research studies from the course professor as well as their Instructional Assistant. Students are also paired and conduct a peer review of their colleague's action research progress, providing feedback and support. During the next four courses, students are provided additional support through email and phone conferences by two professors.

Pepperdine University - Educational Leadership - Shared by Linda Purrington

Pepperdine University's Educational Leadership Administration and Policy (ELAP) Ed.D. Program has implemented Participatory Action Research (PAR) for the past fourteen years in a strand of five courses that span five terms. in the first course, students learn the foundations of PAR and identify a focus for their study through reflective journaling, reflective interviews, and analytic discourse. They explore underlying feelings, beliefs, and insights regarding the area of focus and engage in a mini literature review. Next, they reflect upon their focus and theory in order to construct a central question to frame their PAR study.

In the second course, students develop a logic model (plan) for their first cycle of planning, acting, assessing, and reflecting. They enact their Cycle 1 plan and engage in Learning Circle interactions to share and discuss their work. They journal throughout the cycle. At the end of Cycle 1, students complete a forward planner; a reflection of what they actually did, what resulted, what they learned from results, and how results informed planning for their next cycle.

In the third and fourth course, students engage in the planning and implementation of their second and third cycles of PAR. Throughout their PAR work, students build and maintain a Google Site for archiving and sharing their work and learning.

In the fifth and final course, students complete a formal 30-40 page PAR Final Report in which they write about their PAR work, PAR learning, leadership learning, and personal leadership learning. Students make connections with their PAR study and learning across the ELAP Program curriculum. Students present their papers to a formal panel and open audience via a media presentation, followed by a poster session/table display that also provides access to their PAR Google Sites. The media presentations and displays occur in a culminating conference style event that includes a keynote speaker. The final PAR course and resulting paper, presentation, and poster/display have become a capstone project for the ELAP Program.

Pepperdine University - Learning Technologies Master of Ed. Program, Shared by Margaret Riel

In the Learning Technologies program at Pepperdine University, there are three strands that each stretch 13 months, and each with an outcome. The action research strand consists of a 1-credit course in the summer and then three 3-course credit classes, one each semester (Fall, Spring, Summer) for a total of 10 course units. This is one-third of the program taught over 13 months.

During the first course, students learn about doing action research and think about what changes they would like to make in the way they work with others.

In the second semester they plan for the action by reading research literature about the issue and models or theories related to the topic. They also study their workplace, thinking about how best to engineer change. The cycles might start in the Fall, but more likely in the Spring.

The Spring semester covers data collection and tools for analysis and the final semester is focused on writing and peer critiques and reflections. The students present their work at either a conference or poster exhibition at the end of the program.

A few of the students are invited to continue to work on their action research reports to prepare them for publication at the Center for Collaborative Action Research (cadres.pepperdine.edu/ccar).

University of Central Missouri Master of Library Science Program Shared by Jennifer Robins

Generally action research was taught as a single course near the end of a master's program that prepares practicing teachers to be school librarians. However a more ideal practice was made possible due to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The grant provided scholarships for 39 teachers who were already working in school libraries, but were not yet certified. Action research framed the program in the following ways in this 18 month master's program.

  • The action research course was taught the first semester which, for the scholarship recipients, was in the spring.
  • The last assignment for the action research course involved considering ideas for four projects to take place in the teachers' libraries over the next academic year and creating an approved research plan for the first project.
  • Over the summer, the teachers prepared three more action research plans approved by the instructor.
  • Action research in the teachers' schools commenced the following fall, and all four projects were completed by the end of the spring semester of that academic year.

It was a luxury to have practicing school librarians whose needs were not just hypothetical. We had to do some maneuvering with the semester grading at the university to accomplish this structure. All students enrolled in a 4-hour research course in their first summer, but received an incomplete grade until all four action research projects were complete. Here is the schedule for the 18 month program.

For a report on this effort see:

Robins, Jennifer. "Action Research Empowers School Librarians." American Association of School Librarians. www.ala.org/aasl/slr/volume18/robins

Note: A 2016 updated survey with 11 of the 39 school librarians responding reported that 9 of them have completed 1 or more action research projects after completing their master's program.

National University, Master of Science in Educational Administration Program

Shared by Teri Marcos

Two culminating courses create the action research sequence for the Sanford College of Education at National University. Degree candidates take an introductory action research course over 8 weeks while learning to select a topic, search for literature, and create an appropriate methodology. The second course is offered over a range of from 12 weeks to 1 year. Candidates for the degree finalize their topics, design their instrument(s), as well as gather and report their data findings and analyses.

In that candidates are aspiring administrators, school data sets that are readily available, and many times public, are encouraged for investigation. For example, a candidate may wish to determine equitable learning across multiple student groups. These data are available within the California School Dashboard, as well as SBAC data, and the former School Accountability Report Card (SARC). Candidates are encouraged to engage within mixed-method designs and often follow-up initial quantitative data findings with interview protocols for individuals and focus groups.

Studies are shared as presentations within the final class. Studies are also shared with site supervisors as a leadership plan of action is a required component of each study. These are completed within the school of study and include a timeline for completion. Candidates are invited to submit proposals to the National University Student Scholarship Conference, as well as other conferences, as they consider their choices for dissemination of their action research study findings.

Ball State University - Master of Arts in Mathematics Education, Shared by Kathy Shafer

Action research is taught in a capstone course sequence (2 sixteen-week 3-credit courses). Graduate students are current or former K-16 mathematics teachers or educators in support roles (i.e. hearing impaired specialist, mathematics coach, mathematics school specialists).

In the fall semester, teachers examine how action research is different from other methodologies, identify a topic, develop a research question (or purpose statement) and conduct a review of the literature. This is followed by practicing and then planning data collection and analysis protocols (video recording, survey, focus group interview, lesson postmortem, field journal, reflective journal, and artifact assessment). If the topic requires a substantial shift in the teacher’s practice, an initial cycle is completed. For example, implementing standards based grading or flipping the classroom.

In the spring semester, teachers implement their planned activity, which typically includes one cycle that spans anywhere from three to eight weeks, analyze data, and write a formal 30-40 page research report. Due to the geographical distances and the limitations of sharing work completed by minors, reports are not publicly presented either in person or virtually. However, many of the teachers have presented their work at the local, state, and national level through workshops, conference sessions and publications.

*The MA program includes three concentrations: Elementary and middle school mathematics (30 credits), Secondary mathematics (30-32 credits), and Elementary/middle school mathematics specialists (36 credits).