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The Action Research Guidebook

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

Second Edition

January 2011 | 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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ISBN: 9781412981286