Research Methods in Education

By Louis Cohen; Lawrence Manion et al. | Go to book overview

13

Action research

Introduction
One of the founding figures of action research, Kurt Lewin (1948) remarked that research which produced nothing but books is inadequate. The task, as Marx suggests in his Theses on Feuerbach, is not merely to understand and interpret the world but to change it. Action research is a powerful tool for change and improvement at the local level. Indeed Lewin’s own work was deliberately intended to change the life chances of disadvantaged groups in terms of housing, employment, prejudice, socialization, and training. Its combination of action and research has contributed to its attraction to researchers, teachers and the academic and educational community alike, demolishing Hodgkinson’s (1957) corrosive criticism of action research as easy hobby games for little engineers! The scope of action research as a method is impressive. Action research may be used in almost any setting where a problem involving people, tasks and procedures cries out for solution, or where some change of feature results in a more desirable outcome. It can be undertaken by the individual teacher, a group of teachers working co-operatively within one school, or a teacher or teachers working alongside a researcher or researchers in a sustained relationship, possibly with other interested parties like advisers, university departments and sponsors on the periphery (Holly and Whitehead, 1986). Action research can be used in a variety of areas, for example:
teaching methods—replacing a traditional method by a discovery method;
learning strategies—adopting an integrated approach to learning in preference to a single-subject style of teaching and learning;
evaluative procedures—improving one’s methods of continuous assessment;
attitudes and values—encouraging more positive attitudes to work, or modifying pupils’ value systems with regard to some aspect of life;
continuing professional development of teachers—improving teaching skills, developing new methods of learning, increasing powers of analysis, of heightening self-awareness;
management and control—the gradual introduction of the techniques of behaviour modification;
administration—increasing the efficiency of some aspect of the administrative side of school life.

These examples do not mean, however, that action research can be typified straightforwardly; that is to distort its complex and multifaceted nature. Indeed Kemmis (1997) suggests that there are several schools of action research. 1


Defining action research

The different conceptions of action research can be revealed in some typical definitions of action research, for example Hopkins (1985:32) and Ebbutt (1985:156) suggest that the combination of action and research renders that action a form of disciplined inquiry, in which a personal attempt is made to understand, improve and reform practice. Cohen and Manion (1994:186) define it as ‘a small-scale intervention in the

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Research Methods in Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Boxes xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • Part One - The Context of Educational Research 1
  • 1 - The Nature of Inquiry 3
  • Part Two - Planning Educational Research 47
  • 2 - The Ethics of Educational and Social Research 49
  • 3 - Research Design Issues- Planning Research 73
  • 4 - Sampling 92
  • 5 - Validity and Reliability 105
  • Part Three - Styles of Educational Research 135
  • 6 - Naturalistic and Ethnographic Research 137
  • 7 - Historical Research 158
  • 8 - Surveys, Longitudinal, Cross-Sectional and Trend Studies 169
  • 9 - Case Studies 181
  • 10 - Correlational Research 191
  • 11 - Ex Post Facto Research 205
  • 12 - Experiments, Quasi-Experiments and Single-Case Research 211
  • 13 - Action Research 226
  • Part Four - Strategies for Data Collection and Researching 243
  • 14 - Questionnaires 245
  • 15 - Interviews 267
  • 16 - Accounts 293
  • 17 - Observation 305
  • 18 - Tests 317
  • 19 - Personal Constructs 337
  • 20 - Multi-Dimensional Measurement 349
  • 21 - Role-Playing 370
  • Part Five - Recent Developments in Educational Research 381
  • 22 - Recent Developments 383
  • Notes 396
  • Bibliography 407
  • Index 438
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