TTB: What is Action Research?

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March 1, 2013 by k. liz

I am in the final semester of my MA! That’s kinda crazy!! I mentioned last week that I am working through a research project which is focusing on . . . well, several things, but primarily increasing self-confidence and autonomy in second-language academic writing. If you have any tips or have written on the topic, I’d love to hear from you!!

(PS – I’m speaking at the ISTEK conference in April! Maybe I’ll meet some of you there!)


The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research
Chapter 1 – Teacher Inquiry Defined

Teaching is world building, it is architecture and design, it is purpose and moral enterprise. Teaching is a way of being in the world that breaks through the boundaries of the traditional job and in the process redefines all life and teaching itself.

-William Ayers

As a teacher this book has been really exciting to read. Action research was a very common term to me, but I hadn’t really understood what it actually meant. Dana and Yendol-Hoppey write in a very communicative and personal way to make it feel like a mentor is just sitting down and teaching you how to get started on the action research journey. After reading even the first chapter, research seemed far more feasible and accessible to every classroom teacher and not something that should be reserved for PhD students in tiny university offices. So, what’s your next research project going to be?

Chapter 1 is all about helping you figure out what action research actually is and how it fits into your teaching career. Action research, as I alluded to, is different from traditional quantitative or calculated research. Another name for action research is “Teacher Inquiry,” and it differs because rather than having someone who is looking at the classroom as an outsider conduct research, the teacher of the classroom is doing the research as he or she is interacting with the students, curriculum, context, and himself. Action research (teacher inquiry) can possibly prove to be both more difficult and more profitable for the classroom teacher. It is more difficult in that generally the data sets are smaller and less controlled, but can be more profitable because it directly addresses issues that the teacher is currently facing in his or her classroom.

Action research follows the basic model of: diagnose – strategize – implement – clarify. As the research continues, it can constantly change to adapt to the teacher’s own classroom context and findings. Action research’s primary goal is to address an imminent problem in the classroom. While researching, teachers not only solve problems in the classroom while completing action research, but they are also developing themselves as professionals.

Action research expands and pushes the reflective teacher to the next step of professional development by forcing them to not only reflect on what they are doing in the classroom, but to also find the problems, ask the questions, and then scope out a plan for implementing and answering those questions.

Chapter 1 outlines a few more ways in which action research can connect to your life as a teacher, as well as giving a few more details on the definition and differences of action research and other educational research methods.

If you are interested in pursuing action research or teacher inquiry in your classroom (and I highly suggest that you do!!) I would definitely pick up this book. It is a super easy and enjoyable read, but very helpful. In my opinion, it has made the concept of action research understandable and achievable for all teachers.

What question are you asking in your classroom right now?


Through the Books is a series writing through selected chapters of some of my favorite education related books. If you’d like to suggest a book for me to write about, please contact me and let me know, or leave it in the comments below!


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