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Transcript of Action Research
By Chloe Hynes
Evaluation of Project
Conclusions & Findings
"it is not enough that teachers’ work should be studied: they need to study it themselves"
- Stenhouse, 1975.
R.L. Ackoff (1989) "From data to wisdom". In: Journal of applied systems analysis. Vol 15. pp.3-9
Huberman, M. (1988). Teacher Careers and School Improvement. Journal of Curriculum Studies. 20/.
Raymond, D., Butt, R. L. & Townsend, D. (1992). Contexts for Teacher Development: Insi2hts From Teachers' Stories. In Hargreaves, A. and Fullan, M. (Eds.) Understandin2 Teacher Development (pp. 143-161). London: Cassell and Columbia, N.Y.: Teachers College Press.
Reason, P. (1994). Participation in Human Enquiry. London: Sage.
Sagor, R. (2000). Guidung School Improvement with Action Research. ASCD.
Stenhouse, L. (1975) An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, London, Heinemann.
Wideen, M.R. (1989). School-focused Teacher Development. Paper presented at the International Conference on Teacher Development, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, February.
Purposes of action research:
1 - It extends reflective practice and gives it an evidence base. This means that when teachers have that 'gut-feeling' they have something to back it up.
2 - Action research is small scale and classroom or workshop based, so teachers can conduct it in their own teaching contexts without any extra work. This also increases the validity of the work as the learners / institues involved, are those who will be directly affected by the research.
3 - It consideres learner voice, and simultneously holds teachers views in high regard.
4 - Action research allows us to take academic research and explore it directly within the field it is written about (Stenhouse, 1975).
Action research is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action. The primary reason for engaging in action research is to assist the “actor” in improving and/or refining his or her actions.
- Richard Sagor, 2000.
"Research with people
rather than research
- Reason, 1994.
chosen mode of research - collaborative
+ The research will be more trustworthy as it isnt from one biased point of view. It will be objective.
+ The findings of the research will more likely be well recieved from peers as it involves a combination of views and teachers from different disciplines.
+ Allows you to bounce ideas between each other. Particularly, if you are from different disciplines.
+ positive interpersonal support and mutual affirmation (Huberman, 1988)
+ The social context of a group of colleagues working on a common project simultaneously challenges the
individual teacher while providing the mutual support and encouragement (Raymond, Butt & Townsend, 1989).
+ Provides a safe environment for taking risks (Wideen, 1989).
- It may prove difficult finding a time to meet when the whole group is free.
- Ideas may clash between participants - may require a project leader to keep a focus in meetings.
- Negative group dynamic can cause issues.
Working alongside peers
to investigate an issue
or subject jointly.
Research generated by a particular community. This 'community' can take on many forms.
"...the questions, the methods and the meaning of the results will be determined by practitioners."
- Clair et al, 2009.
Smith, M. K. (1996; 2001, 2007) ‘Action research’, the encyclopedia of informal education. [http://infed.org/mobi/action-research/. Retrieved: 3/7/2014].
A Guide for Good Practice and Assessment from the LEarning Institute:
A document describing the concept of assessment for learning by the Excellence Gateway:
A sample chapter and review of 'How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students' by Susan Brookhart:
A report on Collaborative Action Research:
A report on the Individual Learning Planning Process by Scottish council:
Chosen Area of Research
"To Develop Ways to Give Written Feedback to Learners"
Ethical & Political considerations
Many tutors in the department are sessional and therefore may be frustrated if the findings offer solutions that will require more time to do - time they are not paid for. But I will bare this in mind, aiming for ideas that will be iked by all. Overall, the organisation is quite open to new ideas, especially those that raise the profile of the Lifelong Learning Service - therefore the research will be made public on the Excellence Gateway.
I will ask all learners at the beginning of the research if they would be happy to take part. They will complete release forms which will allow us to use their video feedback and photos on the final project. I need to ensure I do this particularly as the research will be publicly available n the Excellence Gateway.
I will not share screen shots of the learner's personal reflective journals, as their purpose is to provide a safe place where they can reflect on their own learning without judgement. I will, however, ask for students to anonymously reflect on the use of them and the process of getting written feedback and reflecting on their own work as a whole.
Justifying the choice
I started working in the authority in October 2013, and in that short time I have heard many negative things about the Personal Learning Records (or PLRs). At first I was told not 'bother' using them as they are a 'waste of time'. I was then informed that every tutor is expected to use the forms as good practice. From my experience however, this useage is not consistent, some tutors find them very useful and rely on them to allow students to reflect on their own learning, and to give tutors a space to provide feedback. However, many tutors I have spoken to have expressed a dislike for the forms as they find them difficult for the students, boring and uninteresting, an extra piece of 'unnecessary' admin and inappropriate for the students (mainly leisure courses).
I've found that the teachers who are not convinced by the forms, have classes of students who dislike them too. This is evidenced in learner's exit surveys. Some teachers have opted to not completing them at all and creating their own reflection diaries for learners to complete. Some teachers use them briefly with their learners so they are no longer productive or fit for purpose. And some, few teachers, just don't use them at all.
The form has a good purpose when used properly. But I agree with many teachers (and learners) it is (currently) not suitable for every subject and every class. This project will allow me to experiment ways in which to make the diary purposeful, interesting and interesting for learners to use.
1 - It was identified in the SAR that teachers are not giving written feedback to learners on a regular basis, and consistently across the authority. Many teachers just don't have the confidence to give written feedback, particularly in subjects where it is not deemed do-able or appropriate eg. those with low literacy levels or art subjects.
2 - Working collaboratively with numeracy and literacy (ESOL) tutors
(an art teacher myself), we will experiment with ways in which we
can give tangible feedback to learners. At the end of the research we
will have a selection of resources to share with peers.
3 - Two out of three teachers in the project are sessional. However,
work and meetings will be paid for. The project will begin at the start
of a new term allowing for a whole term to carry out the research - and a half term to reflect and redevelop our ideas. Students will also be pre-existing which means they can compare previous practices to new practices. In my case. they will be able to compare the old PLR with the newly developed on.
1 - Gain learner and teacher voice re. existing reflection journal (PLR)
2 - Develop new reflection journal.
3 - Use with learners until half term.
4 - Before half term break, ask for learner feedback.
5 - During half term break, using learner feedback and own reflections, adapt journal.
6 - Second half of term, Introduce changes in journal.
7 - Use with learners until end of term.
8 - Ask for learner feedback: include comparisons to old form and new.
9 - Present findings to managers.
10 - Present findings to peers.
Qualitative & Quantitative data
Qualitative data can be quantified in a numerical manner. Whilst this makes data easy to analyse and present, it doesn't leave much space for real opinion and ideas. In fact, many closed ended questions can lead to an answer that may not have otherwise been given (For example: What is most important to you - Learning how to make patterns for dresses or learning how to hand sew? The student may not be interested in either, but feels forced to tick one regardless). Also, if a scale is used, these can be very subjective. What one person perceives as a 5/10 another person may choose 7/10. Similarly, what one person states is 'okay', another person may tick 'very good' so as not to offend.
Qualitative data cannot be quantified in a numerical manner unless codified into categories, as it is wholly language based. The advantages of qualitative data are that it allows the person providing the information to be completely subjective and give as much description and information as they would like. However, sometimes people may not give much information to collate (For example: 'Did you enjoy the second activity today? Why?' followed by 'Yes'). Or, they may give too much, which is time consuming to read plus the researcher has to discern the most relevant parts of the answer.
Data is raw... It does not have meaning of itself.
Information is data that has been given meaning by way of relational connection.
Knowledge is the appropriate collection of information, such that it's intent is to be useful.
- Ackoff, 1989
In order to analyse qualitative data, I will look for similarities and differences - relationships between all the information.
Collection of DatA
Learners need to feel that the way they record their progress is meaningful and relevant to them.
Effectiveness of own practice
Strengths & Weaknesses
I am very self-motivated and manage my time welll.
Opportunities for future development
We were provided with graphics tablets as part of this project. However, due to time constraints and the tablets arriving late, I didnt get to explore their use. I plan to explore their use within the classroom next academic year and would like to do so via action research.
Art / Collage
Posters, post it notes, bullseyes, traffic lights, notice boards, Wordle, Tagxedo.
Audio / Visual
+ Teacher can make notes in an interview style. Which would require no equipment.
+ Can be executed with a tablet or (most kinds of) mobile phone.
+ Can be done quickly and captures the essence of the students opinions.
+ A realistic and personal method of data capture.
- Requires equipment if you wish to record.
- Students can feel self-conscious when being recorded. Their response may be more guarded than it would be if you were not recording them.
Bar chart, graph, pie chart. Mind map software inc. Mind Node, Coggle, Popplet, Pearl Tree, Scoop it, Delicious, Prezi
Padlet, Thinklink, Google docs, Dropbox, Evernote, Etherpad, Team Work, Sqwiggle, blogs.
+ Hands on approach, tactile, creative and visual. Great for skills for life learners.
+ Allows teacher to be very creative, in its execution.
+ Can be adapted to the classes needs.
- Students may not know what to write and copy off their partner, making their results unusable.
- If it involves too many instructions it may be confusing to those with low literacy levels.
- Requires paper/pens etc.
The New London Group (2000) stress that Multi-modal communication is growing in importance.
So I will not restrict myself to choosing one methodlogy. Instead, I will look to adopt a selection depending on my students and the route the research is going.
Paper based, Survey monkey, scales (1-10, agree/neutral/disagree), bullseye wheels (1-5), open ended questions, multiple choice,
+ Good for both qualitative and quantitative data.
+ Can incorporate evidence eg images, videos, sounds, graphs etc on most of the online mind map software.
+ Can colour code and section separate pieces of information.
+ Very visual with straight to the point text.
+ Can share with other members of staff via a simple link.
- Need access to a computer. Many centers do not have computers.
- Some of the software is not compatible with certain file types.
- Some of the software e.g. Popplet is not able to be embedded into another diagram. It must be saved as a .jpeg or .pdf and embedded as an image/file not a link.
- Some software requires you to pay, or entitles you to a short free trial.
- Need to be computr literate to use.
+ Teachers can embed or share most file types or links.
+ Most allow you to add others as collaborators which is excellent for collaborative work and research.
+ Great for sharing work with others whilst at a distance.
- Need access to a computer and the internet. Many centers are not equipped.
- Some programs require flash player. If you are on a computer that does not have it you will need admin rights to download the program. Therefore, it may not be suitable for libraries (many of our classes are held in libraries).
+ Excellent for qualitative and quantitative research alike depending on questions used - Try for a mix of both open and close ended questions.
+ Programs like SurveyMonkey automatically produces results for you from the submissions.
+ Survey monkey allows you to give the link to students so they can complete in their own time.
- Learners may be disengaged with paper forms either because they have to use them alot in their personal life (eg. unemployed) or they find them hard to understand (literacy and ESOL students).
- Learners may not complete if you ask them to do in their own time.
- Limited computer access.
- Learners may not read questions properly if they are uninterested in the survey. They may copy from one another.
- Scales are subjective.
- Learners may see it as a reflection on the teachers work and lie in order not to upset their teacher.
In order to analyse the data, I will look for relationships between the information I have. These relationships will be different for qualitative and quantitative data. For qualitative data I will look for similarities within the answers, perhaps themes and ideas in order to codify the data into categories to make the data somewhat quantifiable. For quantitative data, I will find the average and the range of answers.
“One way of helping learners to put feedback to better use is to cause them to reflect on feedback, and evidence their reflections as part of an ongoing process of becoming increasingly conscious of how they learn” (2010:121)
Phil Race (2010:110) advises giving feedback following a learner self-assessment: “This can help tutors to give learners feedback which is much more focussed on learners real needs than just giving feedback without knowing what learners themselves already thought about their own strengths and weaknesses...”
Feedback requires not only some way of monitoring change from inside, but additional input from outside. We need a mirror to reflect back to us an image of what we are doing – or what we are not. (1991:93)
'How to Give Effective Feedback to Students' - Susan Brookhart, 2008.
CHAPTER 3: How to Give Written Feedback.
David Minton (1991:221) says "It is an unfortunate feature of modern education that emphasis is put so heavily on left brain behaviour…we try to do everything logically. There is a preference for linear structures"
'Assessment For Learning: Developing the Expert Learner'
- Quality Improvement Agency, 2008
'Good Practice, Assessment and Feedback'
- Learning Institute.
End of Course survey
This allowed for qualitative feedback on both the original and newly developed reflection journals. For this method, I asked gave learners 6 stars, 2 red/pink, 2 green and 2 amber/yellow. One 'set' of traffic lights was for the PLR and one set was for the reflective diary. On the red star learners wrote something they disliked about the form, amber; something they would change and green; something they liked. Learners were responsive to a visual stimulus and enjoyed the activity. Due to the specific questions asked of each star, the research is also quantifiable.
The learners used for this project were a very outspoken group. I decided to allow them time to specifically tell me how they felt about getting written feedback. I was concerned that they would talk for too long on the video, and was prepared to interject in order to keep them focused. But they were very succinct and straight to the point.
Extra qualitative and quantitative data achieved through end of course survey which all learners complete with regards to course, tutor, authority, resources etc. Only some questions are applicable to the research. Answers all back up data achieved via traffic light poster and videos.
80% learners did not like anything about the PLR.
100% learners did not like the amount of writing required for the PLR.
80% learners found positive things to say about the Reflective Journal.
60% learners liked the Reflective Journal.
40% learners suggested changes to the Reflective Journal (though very small).
100% learners read the written feedback.
100% earners liked the written feedback.
60% learners actioned weekly targets every week.
100% learners preferred the Reflective Journal
Is there valid evidence of improvement?
Yes - 100% of learners preferred the Reflective Journal rather than the PLR. All learners liked and read the feedback. However, only 60% of learners actioned their targets every week. The sample size of my class was small, however, the students were relative to the research, therefore the evidence was valid. To increase reliability however, the research could be repeated with a larger sample.
What exactly has improved?
Learners are more engaged with the Reflective Journal than the PLR. They were more encouraged by paperwork that is visually appealing. 80% of learners said they found them fun engaging. This will result in more productive learners who find completing the necessary course paperwork beneficial rather than a meaningless chore. 100% of learners enjoyed receiving written feedback during the three step process and found that their self-assessment isn't always correct. Having feedback written down means that students wont forget it and will be most likely to remember it and refer to it in future. Giving written feedback to students helped them to confidently construct their own target. Whilst only 60% actioned their targets straight away, the remaining 40% may have not had time, or will meet these targets after the course ends.
Is the evidence reliable?
The learners have used PLRs previously and expressed a dislike for them in their exit surveys. I have a good relationship with the learners but to ensure there was no bias in the results, I did not tell them I personally created the Reflective Journal - so the feedback was focused on the worksheet, rather than my feelings. However, the sample size was small and so may not be considered a reliable amount. In order to test this further and produce more reliable results, it could be repeated with a larger sample of students. Whilst care needs to be taken in generalising the conclusions we make due to the small sample sizes involved, our research still holds validity in that it was focused upon the kind of learners that we want to reach.
Learners said they did not like the amount of writing required in the PLR, because some of the learners are unemployed and have to complete many forms day-to-day and these forms remind them of benefit forms - it is not encouraging of reflection. Learners suggested completing only one form and adding pages for additional courses to reduce the repetitive paperwork.
Whilst all learners preferred the Reflective Journal over the existing PLR, only 4 said they liked it and saw purpose in it. 2 learners would rather have neither. The main issue seemed to be the writing, learners are still discouraged by writing during an arts leisure course.
1 - Visual students are put off by large sections of text with many questions. Students respond well to a combination of text alongside visuals (including images and vectors) that are related to their course of study.
2 - Students enjoy working with paperwork if it is visually appealing.
3 - Students enjoyed recieving written feedback during the three step process and found that their self-assessment isnt always correct.
4 - Giving written feedback to students helped them to confidently construct their own target.
More engaged & stimulated learners
Reflection is seen as beneficial not meaningless, creates more productive learners.
Learners have hard copy of feedback as a future reminder.
Learners now find making targets easier
Use visual and engaging progress reports
Encourage the development of wider e.g. employability skills at the same time as recording learners' progress: There can be multiple outcomes when tutors can be creative and innovative.
When recording learners' progress, a one size fits all approach doesn't always wok. It's helpful to have a template but tutors need to be able to adapt this to make it fit for purpose.
Progress recording should be a collaborative, learner-centred proess. There are three important stages to this:
1 - Enable learners to reflect on their progress and record their reflections.
2 - Tutors then feedback on the learners' reflections and add more to this.
3 - Learners and tutors work together to agree targets.
I need more experience analysing data, particularly qualitative data.
When involved with a project I am passionate about it and focused on the impact the research will have on the learner and their education.
Sometimes I can have too many ideas and have difficulty focussing and prioritising.
Keep a regular blog. This will allow me to explore the many ideas I have which sometimes can overwhelm me during projects such as these.
Practice quantifying and analysing data from course exit surveys and other sources of learner voice.
Research futher action research methodologies and reports to inspire future research and teaching practice. Look into possibilities of doing research with a bigger sample of learners.
As you can see, action research should be a cyclical process involving constant reflection. It allows for the experimentation and implementation of different ideas. Once an idea has been explored you stop and reflect upon it and gain feedback from your participants. This then allows you to develop the idea further and explore again... In this way, the cycle can be continuous.
Based on the feedback for learners and tutors, I have the following recommendations: