What Is Action Research?
Martindale, Maura, Tomlin, Viva, Volta Voices
In the field of listening and spoken language for children and youth with hearing loss, there is a paucity of research literature from the very best of today's practitioners on specific strategies that they use every day and believe work with parents and students. However, practitioners in deaf education rarely conduct their own research, or have time to read the research that is available. And much of that research is not always presented in a manner that is useful to teachers and therapists. Increasingly, with growing emphasis on evidence-based practices, teachers and parents need to be fully armed with data to support their practices and strategies.
In Action Research courses at California Lutheran University (CLU) in Thousand Oaks, Calif., teachers and practitioners in auditory-based graduate programs are being guided to seek answers to their problems, improve practices and evaluate their programs via Action Research. Action Research "is a type of applied research, conducted by practitioners to improve practices in educational settings" (Glanz, 2003, p. 4). It is a highly collaborative process designed to encourage practitioners to evaluate their own programs, to discover whether or not interventions and strategies are working with their own students, and to solve real problems.
With Action Research, a practitioner plans, designs, carries out and evaluates his or her own project. Teachers choose an area of interest or concern in education (in this case, auditory-based practices), assess the scope of the issue, find out what others have published on this topic, design their own solutions, try to solve a problem, improve their own practices and evaluate their results. Teachers work collaboratively with others at their school sites to make a real difference in teaching outcomes. They "take action" or make changes, based on their project. Beyond just an individual teacher or therapist working toward a goal, a school-wide climate emerges that supports problem solving, self-assessment and continued improvement.
Action Research, step by step, nurtures a symbiotic living partnership between academia and the teacher/ practitioner. Conducting one's own research in the field of deaf education can be difficult to carry out alone due to lack of time, small numbers of subjects, too many variables to control for, difficulty randomizing subjects, inappropriate instruments or lack of support from administrators. In addition, the time and expertise needed to write a grant to hire an outside researcher can be overwhelming. As a result, we are left with a vacuum of knowledge that could be gained from today's teachers/practitioners. While there is a great deal of excellent basic research published in journals regarding listening and spoken language, a given practitioner may be looking for solutions closer to home.
This article explains how teachers and practitioners can bridge the gap between problems and solutions using Action Research. The following steps for creating an Action Research project include an example of the process as followed by a professor at CLU and a teacher in a special day class for students with hearing loss at Saticoy Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District in California. Designed for students who are not ready for a general education setting, a special day classroom (SDC) is situated on a general education campus but all of the students in the class have a significant hearing loss.
Conducting Action Research: Step By Step
First, ask yourself, "what are you concerned about?" What is the problem in your classroom or school? What do you want to know about a specific practice, program or strategy? We recommend that practitioners try to articulate this in a single sentence or question. The following question was asked by the teacher of the classroom in our example:
What best practices do students with hearing loss, who are also English language learners (ELL), need in order to meet grade level standards for literacy in elementary school? …