Action Research: A Survey of Aacte-Member Institutions

Article excerpt

Introduction

A popular and widely-used strategy, action research, focuses on collaborative activities between schools, colleges, or departments of education (SCDE) and P12 schools to connect theory and application. Action research has been defined in a number of ways: 1) a method of inquiry undertaken by classroom teachers for the purpose of improving their own practices; 2) a combination of approaches to improve classroom teaching and outcomes; 3) a systematic and recursive inquiry and reflection in a collaborative learning community directed toward the understanding and improvement of practice; 4) a method of inquiry undertaken by classroom teachers for the purpose of reflecting upon and improving their own practices; and 5) creative problem solving and/or research-based decision making designed to solve immediate problems.

Action research projects are usually designed to improve knowledge about effective teaching/learning practices and to promote collaboration among preservice and inservice educators and between P-12 schools and higher education personnel. Action research is often a component of preservice training when students enrolled in initial preparation programs are required to work with school-based personnel to investigate various topics and strategies. Many advanced programs include activities and encourage students to select a thesis topic related to an action research project. The growth in professional development schools (PDS) and the emphasis on collaboration between higher education and P-12 schools by accreditation agencies forecast an increase in action research.

The Study

This paper describes a study focused on collecting and analyzing data to characterize the role of AACTE institutions in action research. For the purpose of the study, action research was defined as:

   A systematic method of inquiry in a collaborative effort between P-12
   schools and SCDE personnel for the purpose of reflecting upon and improving
   classroom teaching and outcomes.

Utilizing this definition, SCDE were asked to provide information related to collaborative activities with P-12 schools. A questionnaire consisting of 18 items was developed, validated by professional educators, and sent to the head of AACTE-member SCDE. The 1997 AACTE Membership Directory was used to identify the SCDE. A cover letter explaining the study, the instrument, and a self-addressed, postage paid envelope were sent to 602 institutions. A total of 245 (41%) instruments were returned. Data from the questionnaires were synthesized to provide answers to the following questions:

1. How involved are AACTE member institutions in initiating, designing, conducting, and interpreting action research?

2. How are the knowledge and skills (training) necessary to design and implement action research developed?

3. What programs within the SCDE emphasize action research?

4. Is action research a required component of pre-service or graduate level programs?

5. What is the focus of action research?

6. Is there a knowledge base that connects practitioners and classroom theory and how is theory linked to practice?

7. How are findings from action research utilized and shared? (Does action research inform or affect practice?)

8. What are some exemplary practices related to collaborative action research?

Findings

The SCDE. The first part of the questionnaire asked for information related to the SCDE. In response to the first item, over 72% (n=245) of the responding institutions indicated that they are accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. This information was solicited because NCATE standards (Standard I.I Professional Community, Standard III. A Professional Education Faculty Qualifications, Standard III.C Professional Assignments of Faculty) address collaboration between the SCDE and P-12 schools. …