Developing your academic role
Doing and supporting action research
Many teacher education courses have an element of teacher research and the terms ‘action research’ and ‘practitioner research’ cover a variety of approaches taken by teachers researching their own practice, or investigating an area in their school. Supporting trainees in the development of their research skills and abilities, as well as developing assignments for validation on teacher education courses, is a valuable way of engaging with fundamental principles of teacher education. In investigating their own practice in a structured and guided fashion, trainees learn to hone their evaluation skills and their forward planning abilities. It is important that trainees' small scale pieces of research are well designed, well guided and brought to a satisfactory conclusion. If these parameters are followed trainees' investigations can significantly support their understanding of student learning, and their ability to tailor their lessons and interventions to their individual students and circumstances.
The validation of the piece of research in the first instance lies in the findings being re-applied, this new situation being evaluated and the cycle of implementation and evaluation continued. In this sense, small-scale practitioner research can be a valuable adjunct to a trainee's professional learning. Through this work which engages their own actions and reflections, teachers may be helped to generate new insights and to exercise a certain autonomy in thinking about teaching and learning. Evidently, the kind of small scale practitioner research undertaken in initial teacher education courses cannot yield generalisable conclusions. Individual pieces of research may though be replicable by other trainees and teachers, and when repeated, evaluated and disseminated, can provide a useful basis on which to gain evidence informed perspectives on an aspect of teaching and learning.
Clarification of various definitions and conceptions of 'action research' can be found on the page 'Action research' on the site of Informal Education
- Useful texts on teachers as researchers appear in the section of our website on current research under the heading Effective ITT / ITE - Teachers as Researchers.
- See particularly the review of the classic Stenhouse textbook, An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, Stenhouse, L. (1975), London: Heinemann
- See also the editorial review and full text of the article, Escaping from the treadmill: practitioner research and professional autonomy (pdf document), Lamb, T., Simpson, M. (2003) Language Learning Journal, 28, pg 55-63
- The Teacher Training Resource Bank (TTRB) e-librarian gives useful sources to to develop understandings of research methods used in small scale studies in schools. See the list of articles cited at http://www.ttrb.ac.uk/ELibrarianQuestionDetails.aspx?QuestionId=496
- Essex LEA has been committed to using small-scale practitioner research as a developmental tool in its schools. The evaluation report on the impact of this initiative raises some interesting points and issues.
- Teachernet has sections useful for tutors and mentors developing research capacity and projects:
- Learning by and from research (4.4.13)
- Action Research – CPD Toolkit, East Midlands (4.4.14)
- How to undertake research in your own classroom and school is a useful section that trainees can be directed to use, which links to some of the theory and practice of small scale inquiry .