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The Action Research Guidebook

The Action Research Guidebook
A Four-Stage Process for Educators and School Teams

Second Edition

November 2010 | 248 pages | Corwin
Action research is a popular form of professional development and incorporates qualitative and quantitative methods, reflective practice, and educational pedagogy. Action research is conducted by the person or the people empowered to take action, for the purpose of improving their future action. Teachers know their particular students, classroom, and schools intimately – therefore, they are best equipped to pick a particular problem (or research question) and then use qualitative or quantitative techniques for further study.

The book is organized around Sagor's four stage process developed from his many years of experience training hundreds of educators. The four stages are:

1. Clarifying visions/targets

2. Articulating theory

3. Implementing action and collecting data 4. Reflecting on data and planning informed action.

The book includes numerous tables, charts, handouts, forms, and worksheets to demystify and simplify the action research process. Short examples drawn from the author's experience working on-one-on with teachers on their action research projects are also included – from raising reading proficiency to increasing the problem solving capacity of faculty members. Sagor shows how teacher teams can work collaboratively to identify and research problems related to the school's goals.

Appropriate for use by individual teachers and teacher teams, as well as by preservice teachers in teacher education courses. Headteachers, counsellors, and other educators will also find the action research process useful for school improvement.

Preface to the 2nd Edition
Publisher's Acknowledgments
About the Author
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  
Doing 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 Programs  
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?  
Building a Graphic Reconstruction  
Graphic Reconstructions for Quasi-Experimental Research  
Graphic Reconstructions With Descriptive Research  
Proofing a Theory of Action-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 Qualifies 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  
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

"This new edition is simply outstanding! The descriptions, metaphors, and modeling of an everyday approach to the inquiry cycle reflect Sagor’s deep understanding of the current challenges educators face in integrating action research into their practices."

Lauren Childs, School Quality Consultant for Teacher Leadership
Oakland Schools, Waterford, MI

"Richard Sagor is one of a very small group of academic educators writing today who authentically and profoundly bridges the gap between research and practice. His conception of action research, developed over decades of experience with thousands of educators, is clear, robust and flexible. This book is both intelligent and accessible, and is fun to read and use."

Deborah Court, Head of Curriculum Studies
School of Education, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Excellent, step-by step method, with great illustrations.

Can be immediately implemented in classes.

Highly recommended.

Became the core guide for an Equity and Social Justice in Education course that I decided to carry out via an action research framework

Mr Richard Hogeboom
Education Div, Chaminade University
May 17, 2012

a useful supplementary textbook for those undertaking action research: some prior knowledge needed though to access it fully.

Dr Liane Purnell
School of teacher Education, Newman University College
October 18, 2011

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