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Module 4 – SLP

Action Research Implementation and Data Collection

Module 1 described in detail how the SLP for this course will produce a document that will begin a working draft of a proposal for your Doctoral Study.  Once again, it is important that you not be concerned that the work you do at this early date will obligate you to that topic later on.  Your thinking should and will evolve as you take additional courses.   However, you should take this assignment and the feedback you receive seriously because it will serve as the template you will follow as you develop your ideas more fully.

In Module 1 we provided the big picture of what you will put together throughout the course.  It would be a very good idea to review it again.  Note that the “deliverables” are listed for each module.

As a review, the deliverable for Module 3 was as follows:

Module 3:  How would I classify the appropriate study design (explanatory, descriptive, etc.)? Describe how you would classify your design and explain the rationale for your design choice. Briefly discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the approach. (2-3 pages).

In thinking about a possible topic for your Doctoral Study, consider the following questions:

Module 4:  What kind of data would I need for my doctoral research and why?  Where could I obtain it?  How would I approach gaining access to the data? How would I analyze it? (2-3 pages)

SLP Assignment Expectations

Although the SLP is a less formal document than a case study, it is expected that you follow APA convention at the doctoral level. Also, although you are asked for your opinion, remember that it is good practice to avoid writing in the first person. Instead, focus on stating the facts as you perceive them to be while writing in the third person—and cite supporting sources.

Module 4 – Background

Action Research Implementation and Data Collection

The following readings are required for Module 4.  Optional readings can be found at the end of each section and while not required, may help you understand the material better and be useful to you if you choose to conduct a case study research method for your doctoral study.  All readings can be accessed in the Trident Online library, unless linked to another source.

Methods of Data Collection in Action Research

Action research, in the same manner as case study research, is fundamentally an inductive undertaking that makes use of an array of qualitative research and data collection techniques.  Since the objective of action research is to answer questions, reflect, and to take steps to solve problems—it is essential to build a holistic view of the situation and context. Multiple sources of evidence are brought together, compared and contrasted, and assessed in such a way that the specific nature of the problem and required action becomes clear.  The specific categories of the data collection effort will depend upon the specific context under study, but will likely include at least several of the following:

  1. Stakeholder interviews: Recorded in-depth interviews of those involved in the context of the problem under study. Thematic analysis is then applied to interview transcripts.
  2. Documentary analysis: Samples of documents such as meeting minutes, presentations, memos, or emails are sorted and catalogued for thematic analysis.
  3. Focus groups: Focus groups may function as a validation step to review and provide input to data collected from other sources. Further, focus groups may function as a source of primary data collection. In this case, the focus group is presented with situations and issues related to the problem under study. The focus group discusses the problem—and possibly performs brainstorming analysis. Thematic analysis is then applied to the transcript of the focus group (or groups) that meet.
  4. Surveys/questionnaires: Survey instruments are often associated with quantitative research. Action research, however, does not test hypotheses. Instead, it employs an inductive worldview to build up the “big picture” systems view of the problem under consideration. Surveys or questionnaires therefore provide one data point among many in the quest to understand and prepare for problem-solving action. For this reason, open-ended survey questions are likely to add more value than the traditional Likert-like questions typically employed by quantitative research.
  5. Observations: What research subjects actually do in practice may differ from what is stated in interviews and focus groups. Observation of behaviors and activities therefore add an additional data point to further ground the action research in reality. Observation may also shed light on process weaknesses and conflict that contributes to the problem under study. Observation is therefore one qualitative data collection technique that action researchers may wish to consider.  Researchers employing this technique typically take copious notes and use the resulting observation notes as an input to thematic analysis.  (Coates, 2005: Miles & Huberman, 1994)

Ethics in data collection

A common thread observed throughout Action Research is the involvement of and interaction with people.  Researchers therefore have a responsibility to maintain the highest levels of ethics and integrity when interacting with research subjects.  A researcher who is using human subjects in research is expected to use the following guiding principles:

  1. Informed consent: All participants in research must provide consent to participate. No observations, interviews, or any other form of data collection may be undertaken without such consent.
  2. Confidentiality and anonymity: The personal information that may arise from data collection from research subjects must be protected. The researcher is expected to have means to code and secure the data so that confidentiality is maintained. Another approach to providing security for the research subject is to maintain anonymity so that no connection is made between the collected data and any particular individual.
  3. Integrity: At no time should the researcher lie to a research subject or “trick” a research subject in any way in the course of seeking particular responses or behaviors. (Arango, 2016)

These principles are a few of many that are considered by the University Institutional Research Board (IRB). The function of the IRB is to examine all proposed research methodologies for validity as well as acceptable ethical practice. Finally, at no time may research proceed without IRB approval.

Results, reflection, and intention

The qualitative results that are developed from the applied methodology provide significant data upon which to consider and reflect. This is the time to ask again, “What problem is it that I am trying to solve?”, “Have I gotten to the bottom of the issues?”, and “What steps do I need to take as a result of my analysis?” These are questions that require significant thought—hence the focus on reflection within action research. Eventually though it is time to put your findings in action. Principles of project management provide tools to aid in acting upon findings. For example, proposed actions arising from action research data collection may be thought of as a project. They may be scoped out (i.e., deciding what specifically must be done or delivered), planned (who performs the actions, and how and when they are performed), executed or carried out, monitored and controlled through completion, and then closed. It should be remembered however that action research is iterative in nature. When an action is completed—data is once again collected for reflection in order to determine if further action is required.  It may well take more than one cycle of data collection, reflection, action plan, and implementation in order to complete the action research activity.

Is action research for you?

Problem-solving is an important skill required of senior managers and consultants. A traditional difficulty of problem-solving is the tendency for management to fail to grasp the totality of the issues under study and as a result, devise a plan that “solves the wrong problem”. Action research is both a research as well as a management technique that has the potential to equip managers with the ability to work with stakeholders within organizations to identify, analyze, and reflect upon problems or known systemic issues—and devise and refine sophisticated solutions. Action research therefore has the potential for the manager to demonstrate both research as well as management and leadership skills in a concrete manner.  If you are ready to “get your hands dirty” and demonstrate your intellectual and management capacities—action research may well be for you.

Dick, B. (2014, December 30). Action research and evaluation on line (web). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from http://www.aral.com.au/areol/areolind.html (Read “Sessions 3 through Session 9” links)

Ferrance, E. (n.d.). Action Research: Themes in Education. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/sites/brown.edu.academics.education-alliance/files/publications/act_research.pdf

Perry, C., & Zuber-Skerritt, O. (1992). Action Research in Graduate Management Research Programs. Higher Education, 23(2), 195-208.

Centre for Lifelong Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/study/cll/courses/professionaldevelopment/wmcett/

Ferrance, E. (n.d.). Action Research: Themes in Education. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/sites/brown.edu.academics.education-alliance/files/publications/act_research.pdf

Glossary to Accompany, A Short Guide to Action Research, 3e. Retrieved August 28, 2018, from http://wps.ablongman.com/wps/media/objects/3853/3946147/glossary.pdf

Zentis, N., (2015, August 23). Implementing the Action Research Model. Institute of Organizational Development. Retreieved August 26, 2018, from https://instituteod.com/implementing-action-research-model/

Optional Reading

Participatory Action Research: Theory and Methods for Engaged Inquiry.  Apr 20, 2013 by Jacques M. Chevalier and Daniel J. Buckles. Obtained from Trident Online Library.

Participatory Action Research (Qualitative Research Methods). Nov 28, 2007 by Alice McIntyre.  Obtained from Trident Online Library.

The Action Research Planner: Doing Critical Participatory Action Research. Nov 12, 2013 by Stephen Kemmis and Robin McTaggart.  Obtained from Trident Online Library.

Stringer, E. (2007). Action Research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.  Obtained from Trident Online Library.

Stringer, E. (2013). Action Research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.  Obtained from Trident Online Library.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.  Obtained from Trident Online Library.

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