Cycle Guiding Questions

Framing Cycle Questions

There are many possible ways to help students frame the overall and cycle research questions. In this activity I would like each of the members of the learning circle describe how they help students with this part of the research process. In your teaching, do you let the overall guiding question serve as the focus for the cycles or do you ask your action researchers to formulate one or more research questions for the cycles? Do you use a template? What advice or activities do you organize to help the students with this part of the process? What are some ideas, tools, and resources that you have used and might share for framing good cycle questions? I will start the process by sharing my ideas. - Linda

Creating the Cycle Question

Shared by Linda Purrington

Cycle questions guide the focus and direction for the iterative cycle work of planning, acting, assessing, and reflecting. Cycle questions emerge after a review of the literature and learning what others have done and learned. Cycle questions reflect a specific direction/action and can be assessed. Providing action researchers with a template can help them frame good cycle questions. The following template is one means for guiding the framing of cycle questions:


If we implement (a practice identified in your literature review), in what ways, if any, will it (what you are hoping to change or improve)?


1. If we implement a 12th grade college and career exploration research project for graduating seniors in an independent study program, in what ways, if any, will it increase their knowledge on post secondary options?

2. If we create a visual art community of practice in Southern California (independent of schools and districts) using Wenger’s, (2002) model, in what ways, if any, will it increase the capacity of group members to design and facilitate effective and relevant professional learning opportunities for a community of diverse visual art educators?

3. If we create a formal structure of transition meetings for teachers concerning children moving between classrooms, in what ways, if any, will it facilitate teacher preparedness with transitioning/supporting students in an early childhood settings?

Framing the First Cycle questions

Shared by Margaret Riel

The questions a researcher asks guides their process. A good question will inspire one to look closely and collect evidence that will help find possible answers. I help students to identify an area of change that is possible for them--one that will help the student to move them in the direction of their visions and values. I suggest that they imagine the outcome of the action and how it might it move toward a different future. I have them fill out this table for at two-three issues and have them share them. It is often clear which one they are more passionate about.

  • General Issue: Recognize a problem where values do not align with practice

  • Specific Problem: Identity a specific problem to explore related to the value-practice gap

  • Action Planned: Consider an action, a place where you could intervene to close the gap

  • Anticipate outcomes: Consider the outcomes that will result from your intervention.

  • Cycle One question: If I.....(describe the action).... , how will it affect... (describe the outcome).

Here are some examples of beginning with the general problem and work towards a more specific statement of the research problem ending with a cycle one action research question with the proposed action and expected responses indicated:

1) K-12 Example (equity in access to resources)

  • General Issue: I care about problems of equity and social justice at my school .

  • Specific Problem: The computer club only attracts male students and I would like to see more female and special Ed students involved with computer technology

  • Action Planned: I need to make changes to the curriculum of the computer club to attract more diverse participants

  • Anticipated Outcome: more diversity of participation

  • Cycle 1 Question: If I examine what girls and/or special needs students do when they have free time on the computer (action), how will their work influence the redesign of the curriculum of the computer club (Outcome)?

2) Organizations Example (knowledge management)

  • General Issue: I value an open source approach to knowledge management

  • Specific Problem: Lack of knowledge management strategies are at the center of many problems in our department

  • Action Planned: I need to find a way to organize the storage and access of digital media because we waste time and effort trying to find things

  • Anticipated Outcome: better access to resources

  • Cycle 1 Question: If I organize a learning community approach with the people most effected by the problem of poor storage strategies, (action) what effect will this have on the efficiency of our group practices of storing, and retrieving information (outcome)?

3) K-12 Example (Parents role in education)

  • General Issue: I value high Parent-Teacher communication because I see it as essential for strong learning in the primary grades

  • Specific Problem: Parents of my students are not working as a team with me perhaps because of language issues.

  • Action Planned: I want to find a way to help parents to support the early reading of students

  • Anticipated Outcome: Increased literacy of both parents and students.

  • Cycle 1 Question: If I create classroom videos of students making letter sounds and reading simple words and share these with parents to practice with their children (action), how will this affect parents ability to help their students and student success?

4) Organizations (collaboration)

  • General Issue: Teamwork leads to more productive organizations

  • Specific Problem: My team is not working well as a unit

  • Action Planned: I could provide some leadership, direction, and support for teamwork by using learning circles

  • Anticipated Outcome: More trust, better working relationships

  • Cycle 1 Question: If I use a learning circle approach with distributed leadership for our work (action), how will it affect the way we share resources (outcome)?

Try to create three possible problems that you care about. By seeing others and thinking about your own, this may help you come up with new ideas of actions you want to research. Remember these are just ideas. So think about what it is that you would most want to change about your workplace and think about what might help you move in that direction.

School Librarians Try Several Approaches to Improving their Pactice

Jennifer Robins

I had an opportunity to work with thirty-nine practicing school librarians (all certified teachers) working on their Missouri school library teaching certification. Over a single school year they focused their efforts on improving their practice. Each student designed 4 action research projects, conducted the projects, evaluated the results, and reflected on the outcomes. Most students chose one project that addressed their central question of improving school library practices overall. Then they chose 3 cycles of action research to improve specific parts of their practice. Examples of Projects and Results can be viewed here.