Frequently Asked Questions
Why do teachers do Educational Action Research?
There appear to be three main reasons why teachers choose educational action research
1. This methodology recognises the messiness that teachers experience in the classroom each day. Teaching is not only about information transfer in a neat clinical way. Teaching incorporates the multiple issues around individual humans working together as they teach and learn. Educational action research can include an eclectic range of research methods which can acknowledge what Mellor described as ‘New understandings of concepts such as analysis, data, theory, and writing began to evolve as he [the author] gradually embraced a positive view of the ‘mess’ ..I recall that I opened the project with a relatively unformed questioning, not with a wish to change, simply to understand what I was doing. However, as soon as I began to look, I wanted to improve some aspects of what I did, but by no means all’ (Mellor 2001, p. 465-466).
2. Through reflection teachers can identify the core personal ideas that inform their dedication to their profession.  These core ideas inform how they teach. Educational action research offers a methodology commensurate with these ideas because it provides teachers with a way to research their practice with a view to making changes that are relevant to the particular circumstances in which they are working. ‘My voice of experience is silenced within the education system in which I work because the system is steeped in an epistemological tradition that prioritises abstract objective knowledge over personal experiential knowledge’, (McDonagh 2007 p.14)
3. Within an Educational action research methodology the core personal ideas that teachers hold can become the criteria by which their research claims can be judged. Teachers can test their evidence base in terms of their own learning and so claim with some confidence that they are achieving their values-based aims of contributing to improved learning and teaching as well as to professional development. ‘We are critiquing the dominant notion of teachers as implementers of others’ ideas and instead we create our own ideas and actively study them’ (Glenn et al. 2008).References
McDonagh, C (2007) My Living Theory of Learning to Teach for Social JusticeHow do I enable primary school children with specific learning disability (dyslexia) and myself as their teacher to realise our learning potentials, PhD Thesis University of Limerick also available
on www.eari.ie  and www.jeanmcniff.comGlenn, M., McDonagh, C., Roche M., and Sullivan, B. (2008) ‘Exploring practitioner-based action research for the ongoing professional development of teachers as we create a new knowledge base for the teaching profession’, paper presented at the Educational Studies Association of Ireland Conference, Galway, March 6-8 2008.Mellor, N. (2001) ‘Messy Method: the unfolding story’, Educational
Action Research, Volume 9, Number 3, 465-484

Who can do Educational Action Research?
Anyone who wants to know ‘How do I improve my practice’ (Whitehead and McNiff 2006) can engage in Educational Action Research in order to
research and theorise their practice. This methodology adopts methods appropriate to practice and so it is easily adapted to all professions. Practitioners who have already chosen this methodology include those in medical professions, agriculture, organisations, academics, as well as many engaged in education including teacher educators, the education inspectorate and teachers in classrooms. Some of their research can be found on this website and other websites linked to www.eari.ie Worldwide there are many networks of professionals who are involved in
various versions of Educational Action Research (Loughran and Russell 2004) such as in America – the Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices (S-STEP) of the American Educational Research Association (McNiff, J and Whitehead 2004); in the UK and Europe – the Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) (McDonagh and Sullivan 2003).
Loughran, J. J. and Russell, T. (2004) (eds) The International Handbook of Self-Study of Teaching Practice. Dordrecht Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers

McDonagh, C. and Sullivan, B. (2003) ‘Making the invisible visible – giving a voice to the marginalised,’ paper presented at the Collaborative Action Research Network Conference, Manchester, September 2003.

McNiff, J., Whitehead, J. (2004) ‘The Transformative Potentials of Individuals’ Collaborative Self-Studies for Sustainable Global Networks of Communication’, paper presented at an interactive symposium of the Self- Study of Teacher Education Practices Special Interest Group, The American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, San Diego, 16 April 2004.

Whitehead, J. and McNiff, J. (2006) Action Research Living Theory, London: Sage Publications.

What is Educational Action Research?

Educational Action Research is a form of action research. It is generally conducted by practitioner action researchers who are committed to improving learning and who are further committed to explaining these improvements in order to influence others. It offers practitioners a form of research that goes beyond a method to generate quality policy-informed practices. It provides practitioners with ways to contribute to theory as well as practice. In doing so it enables them to make scholarly judgements about their work and to test their claims against fellow practitioners, peer action researchers and the wider educational community.

How do I do Educational Action Research?
The research theses on this site provide examples of how four teachers set about doing Educational Action Research on issues that concerned them about teaching in their specific contexts. Whitehead and Mc Niff (2006) show how we can develop living theory about our practice by addressing the following questions. ‘What are our concerns? Why are we concerned? What experiences can we describe to show why we are concerned?  What kind of data can we gather to show the situation as it unfolds? How do we explain our educations influences on learning? How can we show that the conclusions we come to are reasonably fair and accurate? How do we show the potential significance and implications of our research? How do we evaluate the evidence-based account of our learning? How do we modify our concerns, ideas and practices in the light of our evaluations? (Whitehead and Mc Niff 2006, pp 4-8).
Please contact the authors of www.eari.ie for further ideas.

Whitehead, J. and McNiff, J. (2006) Action Research Living Theory, London: Sage Publications.


© Caitriona McDonagh 2008

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