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The Action Research Guidebook
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The Action Research Guidebook
A Process for Pursuing Equity and Excellence in Education

Third Edition


November 2016 | 288 pages | Corwin

Think of yourself as an educational architect

Action research is your essential tool for designing and building a better classroom or school. You know your students best, and by digging deeper into a challenge or research question and then taking informed action, you can achieve far more than any cookie-cutter curriculum or canned program. This empowering introduction to action research is ideal for new and veteran teachers, as well as principals, counselors, and other educators who are committed to school improvement. In the third edition of this bestselling guidebook, you’ll find:

  • New insights on how to use reflective practice, qualitative and quantitative methods, and culturally responsive teaching to improve the success of all students
  • A field-tested, four-stage action research process to lead you from brainstorming to breakthrough, with step-by-step instructions in plain English
  • More illustrative examples, charts, handouts, worksheets, and sample action research reports to demystify and simplify the action research process

By tapping into the power of action research, you can improve overall student performance, eliminate achievement gaps, and enhance your own efficacy and morale.

"The most successful educators are those that purposefully reflect on their practices, with a focus on how and to what degree these practices impact student learning. This book provides a four-stage structured approach for teachers and administrators to engage in action research, with the ultimate goal being to move our schools and classrooms closer to universal student success.”
Eric Carbaugh, Associate Professor of Education
James Madison University


"I love the four-step model and how it is emphasized throughout the text. This approach clearly makes the text unique and a 'must read' for all teachers wanting to enhance their teaching through 
action research."
Christopher J. Maglio, Professor of Education, Research Methods, and Design
Truman State University

 
Preface to the Third Edition
 
Publisher’s Acknowledgments
 
About the Authors
 
1. Introduction to Action Research
Why Conduct Action Research?

 
The Complexity of Routine Instructional Decisions

 
Key Terms and Concepts

 
Universal Student Success

 
 
2. Finding a Focus
Zeroing in on Your Priorities

 
Using Reflective Writing to Find a Focus

 
Performance, Process, and Program Targets and Action Research by School Leaders

 
Using a Journal to Identify Action Research Foci

 
Reflective Interviews

 
Reflective Interviewing and the Problem of Isolation

 
Analytic Discourse

 
Team Reflection

 
 
3. Refining the Focus
Visualizing Success

 
Conducting an Instructional Postmortem

 
Taking Stock of One’s Recent Leadership Experience

 
Comparing Your Experience With the Experience of Others

 
Developing Criteria to Measure Changes With Priority Achievement Targets

 
Creating Performance Rating Scales

 
Rating Scales and Program Action Research

 
The Special Problem of Long-Range Goals

 
Assessing Rate of Growth

 
Determining Adequate Yearly Progress in Real Time

 
Producing Your Own Rate-of-Growth Charts

 
Ascertaining Rate of Growth in Leadership Projects

 
 
4. Articulating a Theory of Action
If Not Us, Who?

 
An Adequate Knowledge Base Already Exists

 
Going Beyond Proven Practices: Building a Theory of Action

 
Two Kinds of Variables

 
Creating Mileposts on the Route to Mastery

 
Inferring Independent Variables

 
Using the Priority Pie to Identify, Clarify, and Weigh Independent Variables

 
Using the Priority Pie With Descriptive Research

 
 
5. Drawing a Theory of Action
Why a Map?

 
European Explorers as Action Researchers

 
Building a Graphic Reconstruction

 
Graphic Reconstructions for Quasi-Experimental Research

 
Graphic Reconstructions With Descriptive Research

 
Proofing a Theory of Action for Leadership Projects

 
 
6. Determining the Research Questions
Three Generic Action Research Questions

 
Developing Your Own Research Questions

 
Two-Step Walk-Through

 
Drafting the Questions

 
Surfacing Research Questions for Leadership Projects

 
 
7. Building a Data Collection Plan
Data Collection and the Competing Demands for Your Time

 
What Qualifies as Teaching?

 
What Things Qualify as Data?

 
Data in Descriptive Research

 
Data in Quasi-Experimental Research

 
Data Collection and Concerns About Precision

 
Fishing in a Sea of Data

 
Securing Research Assistants

 
Building a Triangulated Data Collection Plan

 
Data Collection Planning for Leadership Projects

 
Integrating Efficiencies Into Your Data Collection Work

 
Using Technology to Compile and Assemble Action Research Data

 
Keeping a Researcher’s Journal

 
 
8. Analyzing the Data
Trend Analysis

 
Organizing Data to Help Answer the Three Generic Questions

 
ACR Question 1: What Did We Do?

 
ACR Question 2: What Changes Occurred Regarding the Achievement Targets?

 
ACR Question 3: What Was the Relationship Between Actions Taken and Any Changes in Performance on the Targets?

 
Drawing Tentative Assertions

 
Using Member Checking to Add Credibility to the Tentative Assertions

 
Additional Tools for Qualitative Data Analysis

 
Qualitative Data Analysis Using Bins and a Matrix

 
Low-Tech Strategies for Bins and Matrixes

 
Using a Computer for Bins and Matrixes

 
 
9. Turning Findings Into Action Plans
Modifying Your Theory of Action

 
Data-Based Decision Making

 
Turning Your Findings Into Ed Specs

 
Solicit and Brainstorm Action Alternatives

 
Using Ed Specs to Evaluate Action Alternatives

 
Using Ed Specs to Evaluate Action Alternatives for Schoolwide Projects

 
Completing the Cycle: Revised Theory of Action 2

 
 
10. Reporting and Sharing Action Research
Common Issues

 
Formats for Reporting

 
Creating a Bank of Abstracts

 
Creating a District Archive

 
 
11. Conclusion: The School as a Learning Organization
The Two Keys: Coherence and Congruence

 
Putting the Pieces Together

 
 
Resources
 
Resource A: How to Use the Feedback Forms and Summary Reports
 
Resource B: Five Characteristics of a Quality Action Research Project
 
Resource C: Applications for Leadership Projects
 
Resource D: Sample Abbreviated Action Research Reports
 
Glossary
 
References
 
Index

"I love the four-step model and how it is emphasized throughout the text. This approach clearly makes the text unique and a 'must read' for all teachers wanting to enhance their teaching through Action Research."

Christopher J. Maglio, Professor of Education, Research Methods, and Design
Truman State University

"The most successful educators are those that purposefully reflect on their practices, with a focus on how and to what degree these practices impact student learning. This book provides a four-stage structured approach for teachers and administrators to engage in action research, with the ultimate goal being to move our schools and classrooms closer to universal student success.”

Eric Carbaugh, Associate Professor of Education & Author of The Flipped Differentiated Classroom
James Madison University

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1 - Introduction to Action Research


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