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Working in schools is constantly battling to improve standards and provide a positive experience for children.

Creating a healthy and happy environment in which they can most effectively learn is the main goal of schools, and action research is part of achieving this. So, what is action research, and how is it used to help schools? Read on to find out.

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What is action research?

Action research is used in schools and encapsulates a range of investigation, evaluation, and analytical tactics that can identify issues or weak areas. These can be problems with organization, academics, or instructions. In other circumstances, the techniques can also be used in spaces or situations with no signs of a problem. Instead, the ideas can improve understanding and create a better learning process. Overall, action research is used to ensure an optimum process for learning that can be repeated easily to ensure all students have the best educational experience, leading to increased success for schools and educators.

Action research process

Action research is typically a cyclical, repeated process to continue improving school services. For this reason, it can also be referred to as a Cycle of Action or a Cycle of Inquiry. A few steps can be followed, although the process can be adapted. Here are some of the basic steps that action research entails.

Planning

The planning stage groups together everything that needs to be done to gather the data you need. This should be thought out before any changes can be enacted.

1. Identify a problem

The first step that needs to be taken in the planning stage is to identify a problem in the classroom that must be fixed.

2. Collect data

Once you have established the concern, the next thing to do is collect data on the problem. This information is needed to influence the next steps as it informs how you make your changes.

3. Interpret data

Taking all the data you have collected, you need to organize, analyze and interpret the information.

4. Develop a plan

With the key issue identified and the information you need to understand the nuances of that, you need to formulate a plan to address the problem.

Action

Once you have established the issues and used the data collected to create a plan, you need to enact this in the classroom. This step is when the change takes place and involves adapting the work environment and manipulating it into one that works better using your new steps.

Implement the plan

The core part of the process is putting your new plans into action. During this step, you are implementing the changes in a real environment and have the chance to see the effect of your changes, and hopefully improvements, in person.

Output

Following the implementation of your plans, you need to have processes in place to evaluate the outcomes of these changes. The output stage focuses on the results of your actions and includes gathering new data and further analysis before you can start the process over again to continue the improvements.

Evaluate the results of the actions taken

Bring together all the collected data by putting your plans into action and using it to establish the overall results. Seeing the outcome of your actions means you can see whether they have succeeded. If the changes are insufficient or you think that the problem has not been addressed, you can skip back to the planning step and follow the stages again until you feel the results show that your actions have been successful.

Identify a new problem

Once you have found appropriate solutions to the identified problem, you can move on to identifying any further issues.

Repeat

When happy with your results, you can use the new problems to repeat the process. This means that you continually improve the classroom learning experience and should continue seeing improving results.

Who conducts action research?

While third-party bodies undertake most studies, action research is performed by the educators themselves within the area that is being looked at. This means that those taking part in the study are also conducting it. In many cases, this would seem counterintuitive; however, for action research, it allows a closer look at the issues and the changes. It also means that once a solution is found, it is much easier to continue to implement in the sense the people running the study are the ones who are already putting the changes in place.

How does action research help?

Generally, action research is conducted to find answers to specific problems, such as why so many students are taking sick days or why so many fifth graders are failing science. However, this information and identifying strategies for improvement can be used much more broadly and improve education for all, whether in nearby student bodies or anywhere in the world.