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Action Research

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Action research is a type of professional development. Specifically, it is a process where participants examine their own practices, systematically and carefully, using the techniques of research. There are three types of action research: individual, collaborative, and schoolwide. Individual action research is when one person--be it an administrator or teacher--works alone to refine his or her skills. Collaborative action research takes place when a small group of people work together to identify challenges and analyze the data they have gathered. Schoolwide action research, however, includes majority of the school staff. Principals, teachers, and the district engage in action research together to help improve the school.

When engaging in any of these three types of action research, participants follow a cyclical pattern involving five steps: (1) Identify the problem. (2) Collect and organize data. (3) Interpret the data. (4) Take action based on the data. (5) Reflect. By engaging in action research, participants identify problems they personally are concerned about and gain experience on-the-job by refining their skills.


Action research is of benefit to its participants for several reasons. First, action research allows individuals to identify problems they consider important rather than addressing issues others outside the system deem as important. Therefore, because of its nature, several different types of action research can occur in a school simultaneously.

Action research is a process that allows educators to experience problem solving and model it to their students and colleagues. Moreover, action research can revitalize the entire learning and professional community. Very practical and ongoing, action research can be used in an educatorís everyday experiences while on-the-job.


One model of collaborative action research has been outlined by The South Florida Center for Educational Leaders. This center recommends that at least two or more people--principals, superintendents, teachers, university professors, business partners, or other interested parties--commit to meet and study together on a regular basis. They may meet as often as two hours every two weeks or two to three hours once a month. The group focuses on an area of interest and then collects, organizes, analyzes, puts into action, and reflects upon the data gathered. A coach may be present to facilitate group meetings, and researchers should share their findings with one another. These sessions should be ongoing.

The practicality of action research makes it an intriguing professional development tool that will benefit those that implement its use in their schools.

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