Action Research

Action research is a process in which participants examine their own educational practice systematically and carefully, using the techniques of research. In education, it is research carried out in the context of the teacher’s environment—disciplined inquiry done by a teacher with the intent that the research will inform and change his or her practices in the future. Teachers may work individually or collaboratively on action research. Through the action research cycle, teachers pose questions, gather data, reflect, and implement a course of action which may lead to a solution and/or further research questions. Teacher action researchers share what they have learned with colleagues. Action research is not a problem-solving process—it is a quest for knowledge about how to improve teaching and learning.

Evidence Base for Action Research:

Articles and Websites
Agee, J. (2009). “Developing Qualitative Research Questions: a Reflective Process.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. 22(4), 431-447. doi: 10.1080/09518390902736512

Chataway, C. J. (1997). “An Examination of the Constraints on Mutual Inquiry in a Participatory Action Research Project” Journal of Social Issues 53(4), 747-765.

Ferrance, Eileen. Action Research. 2000: Brown University. A publication of the LAB at Brown University, this piece describes what action research is/is not, types of actions research, history, benefits, steps in action research, and stories from the field. The LAB is one of ten educational labs funded by the USDE’s Office of Educational Research & Improvement. The LAB at Brown serves New England, New York, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

McAlpine, Lynn, Maguire, S. and Lee, M.D. “The Pedagogy Excellence Project: a Professor-Student Team Approach to Authentic Inquiry.” Teaching in Higher Education 10.3 (2005) 355-370. Summarizes a two-semester course-based project at McGill University where professors conduct action research with MBA students whose task was to research teaching and learning, and develop recommendations for the McGill faculty.

Milner IV, H. R. (2007). “Race, Culture and Positionality: Working Through Dangers Seen, Unseen, and Unforeseen” Educational Researcher 36(7), 388-400. doi:10.3102/0013189X07309471.

Nolan, Amanda, and Jim Vander Putten. “Action Research in Education: Addressing Gaps in Ethical Principles and Practices.” Educational Researcher 36.7 (2007) 401-407. This article identifies ethical issues in K-12 school-based action research including issues of consent, confidentiality, autonomy, and several discipline-specific ethical issues. Recommendations are presented for Institutional Review Boards, National Professional and Representative Organizations, and K-12 School Professionals and Teacher Educators.

Peshkin, A. (1988). “In Search of Subjectivity: One’s Own.” Educational Researcher. 17(7), 17-21. Retrieved June 6, 2008 from .

Riel, Margaret. (2010). Understanding Action Research. Center for Collaborative Action Research, Pepperdine University. Accessed online on 8/10/11 from This paper provides a concise overview of action research including descriptive examples of action research goals, questions, reports, and reflection. Designed for MA students in Learning Technologies at Pepperdine University, the paper is accessible and useful for beginning action researchers.

Teacher Research: This site provides a focus on teacher research and seeks to facilitate the work of teacher researchers and scholarship on teacher research at all levels of education. Provides excellent and accessible information for the full K-20 continuum.

Bruce, Susan M. and G.J. Pine (2010). Action Research in Special Education: An Inquiry Approach to Effective Teaching and Learning. New York: Teachers College Press.

Hubbard, Ruth S. and B. M. Power (2003). The Art of Classroom Inquiry: A Handbook for Teacher-Researchers, Revised Edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Lassonde, Cynthia A., and Israel, Susan B. (Editors) (2008). Teachers Taking Action: A Comprehensive Guide to Teacher Research. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Mertler, Craig (2009). Action Research: Teachers as Researchers in the Classroom, 2nd Edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Mills, G.E. (2003). Action Research: A Guide for the Teacher Researcher (2nd ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Pine, G. J. (2009). Teacher Action Research: Building Knowledge Democracies. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Schmuck, R.A. (2009). Practical Action Research for Change (2nd ed.). Corwin Press, a Sage Company: Thousand Oaks, CA.