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Q14.1.1: Is it important for us to do action research? #Q&As
Benjamin L. Stewart, PhD's profile photoSharon Hartle's profile photoSteve Kirk's profile photoTyson Seburn's profile photo
This provides food for thought. On the one hand it is true that reflective traching is something most teachers aim for, but in the ither hand there are the good old time contraints that work against the best intentions. Having said that, keeping a journal for reflections is a great thing to do, and if it is done regularly doesn't need to take up too much time. One voice that is not always listened to is the "student voice" though and learners often perceive things in a completely different way from teachers: so if we really want to learn from what works well (or not) in class, we need to take this into account. There is now a whole range of poll apps etc. that make it easy, in classrooms where learners have smart devices, to get students' opinions. This is a good list of some of the most recent ones: http://appsineducation.blogspot.it/2013/12/creating-quiz-or-taking-poll-on-ipad.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

It depends on the purpose, whose involved (the type of AR), the method or systematic approach taken for collecting data, and how findings influence higher achievement by extending discourse to stakeholders beyond teachers/researchers.
Big advocate of experimental practice as action research and hope to do more in the future. Since coming across it on the Delta, I've seen it as testing out what works for you and your learners. Completely agree with +Sharon Hartle about including the learners in any kind of classroom research.
The "publish or perish’ plague" is a false dichotomy.  Doing participatory action research should be a sharing experience at all stages.  Sharing happens through various forms of publishing (aka open authorship): blogs, websites, etc.  Publishing should not be viewed solely in terms of peer-reviewed articles/journals (close authorship).

Also, action research may not be a "problem solving mode of practice", but it is a way to work towards a problem.  Action research is just as much about problem setting as it is about working towards a problem.  

I have found in my teaching practice, regardless if things are going well, there are always areas where I can improve.  Sure, I could apply action research to study pedagogy/learning that is "going well", but I have enough areas of my practice that would benefit more through a process of problem setting.  Problem setting allows stakeholders (when the process is being shared publicly) to better understand the problem, which in and of itself is worth pursuing.  Thus, public discourse around a problem allows for different perspectives to emerge through the participatory action research process.
I'm not sure whether the "publish or perish" plague is a false dichotomy. It certainly is true for many academics, who may well lose their jobs if they don't publish and so are under constant pressure to do so. This, however, is not necessarily the same for practising teachers, who are possibly more likely to be put off the idea of actionr esearch because it frightens them, seems to be too serious an activity for them to get involved in, when yhey are already having a hard enough time trying to teach 40 hours a week, invent fascinating, engaging lessons, and go to meetings keep up eith burocracy as well as, somewhere along the line, having a life too. This is why I think the problem is really one of what action research means to practising teachers. Below is the comment I just made to Marisa Constantinides http://marisaconstantinides.edublogs.org/2013/12/29/can-teachers-do-research/
In her well written, informative blog post that Tyson Seburn quoted above:
Hi Marisa,

A very interesting blogpost for the new year :-). I think the main problem, as you intimate, is that most practising teachers feel that they "don't have enough time" or they are intimidated, as you also say, by the scary world of academia. Maybe it needs to be looked at in another way. If teachers do not reflect about what they are doing then they cannot have any idea of whether their teaching is effective or not. Most teachers, in fact, do reflect on their teaching, and automoatically come out of their lessons with thoughts racing round in their brains about what they think worked or not. The "key" word here is "think", because unless you carry out some sort of enquiry then you don't really know. This doesn't, as you also say, mean a full blown research project but could quite easily be small things, intervening to get very specific results. A teacher might think the class likes doing certain tasks, because he or she does, but needs to ask the learners their opinions to find out if this is really true, for instance. A teacher may think that learners are not interested in working on certain areas, such as grammar, or speaking, but unless you ask them they you won't know (and sometimes you still won't know because they may well say what they think you want to hear. After all, human beings are strange animals) these are just two small ideas that come to mind, but I brlieve that the real key to this is demystification. If you think something is a "normal" thing to do in your teaching, rather than a very difficult intriciate process, then you are more likely to adopt it.
If action research means a basic reflective cycle of improving on personal practice, then all teachers should be doing it. EAP teachers need additionally, in my view, to be engaged in scholarship - that means (minimally) reading and, ideally, some dissemination of practice/thinking.
+Benjamin L. Stewart I like your point about problem setting. I often tell my MA TESOL students that one of their goals for the year is to learn to ask better questions. The same is true, of course, for practising EAP teachers, particularly (e.g.) in a university context, where many potential stakeholders don't really understand what we do.
+Sharon Hartle I think you're right that the notion of 'research' can put teachers off. It wrongly suggests for some that they need to be doing double blind trials and complicated SPSS data crunching. I am actually in the process of drafting a teacher-facing document for our department that tries to sell the idea of engaging in AR and scholarship to our EAP teachers, by bringing it down to earth and reminding teachers that it can simply be about sharing what they do every day: reflect on what went well / not so well and how this might be built on.
I think we almost all do very informal action research without knowing it. We test out a particular way of approaching a reading or writing task on our class to see how it works. We learn from this and modified. Where the difference lies is the formalisation of writing out a plan, examining the data and logging it. Perhaps we could be encouraged, with guidance, to be diligent about doing this from time to time. It can not only help us, but others in our teams.
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