Action research is a systematic and structured selfreflective
inquiry or a small-scale intervention in
the functioning of a real world social situation,
with a view to understand and improve the teaching
of decision-making in classrooms. This article
discusses the principles and action research that
could be undertaken by lecturers in their classrooms.
The term ‘researcher’ is used interchangeably with
Principles of action research
As action research is a systematic, formative and
problem-focused learning process that tries to
comprehend and improve teaching and learning
in classrooms, either by testing assumptions and
practices or by making critical analyses of those
situations. It could suggest relevant actions to
enhance classroom teaching and learning in various
disciplines. In fact, action research is particularly
useful in the university, where different disciplines
tend to require different teaching methods.
Action research is also likely to be a political
process since the researcher’s actions could affect
students, administrators and other lecturers. Thus
ethical issues such as abuse of authority might arise
if researchers do not abide by ‘researcher ethics’.
However a protocol to obtain clearance from all
participants involved may prevent such problems.
Although action research would involve the
collaboration and participation of small groups
of researchers initially, larger communities of
researchers are expected to be included when the
results are published or used by other researchers and academics for their professional development.
Since the publication and sharing of the results
of action research may raise the ethical issue of
confidentiality, researchers should first clarify this
matter with all participants before undertaking the
The process of action research usually commences
with small changes before progressing to extensive
reforms. This would usually occur through a self-reflective
cycle comprising different stages such
as idea identification, reconnaissance, planning,
developing action steps, implementing action steps,
evaluation and revision of the plan. An important
part of action research is to collect several types
of records including personal journals, published
literature, qualitative evidence and quantitative
data, all of which could be applied as a developed
and critically examined justification for changes
and improvements to classroom teaching.
Reasons for action research
The purpose of action research could be related to
the researcher’s personal interest or professional
development, whereby pedagogical assumptions
and ideas could be tested and developed in real life
practice for the benefit of teaching and learning as
well as sharing with other lecturers.
Methodology of action research
The methodology of action research would
include topic selection, specification of focus,
determination of research approach, triangulation
of data and data collection methods, data analysis
as well as the refocusing of the action research in
order to achieve reliable and valid results.
Although action research topics may encompass
teaching methods, learning strategies, evaluative
procedures, attitudes, classroom management,
administration and lecturers’ continuing professional
development, in reality, due to time constraints and
restrictions in decision-making, the topics available
tend to be limited to those where changes could
be made by the lecturers themselves. As such, the
focus of the action research could be derived from
the selected topic by specifying the particular aspect
for investigation, that is, the research question or
hypothesis that states the relationship between the facts
of the situation and factors operating in its context.
In order to ensure reliability and validity of the
results, action research should incorporate the
triangulation procedure, include introspective and
empirical data, and adopt a variety of research
approaches such as:
• quantitative and qualitative,
• individual and collaborative,
• complementary and intrusive, as well as;
• conclusive and illuminative/heuristic.
To collect introspective data like students’ and
lecturers’ attitudes and private thoughts, data
collection techniques may encompass logs, teaching
diaries, journals, personal accounts, verbal reports
and field notes, which could be described as the
recording of classroom teaching and learning as well
as self-evaluation. Depending on time constraints and types of resources required, empirical data
could be collected using structured or naturalistic
observations, evaluation and trailing, case studies,
experiments as well as structured, semi-structured
or unstructured interviews and questionnaires.
As the ongoing dynamic analysis, verification
and validation of data against the hypothesis or
research question are expected to refocus the action
research such that appropriate changes could be
implemented to achieve the intended effects, the
data analysis stage of the action research process is
the most crucial stage in pedagogical development.
Action research is a useful tool that could be employed
by the individual researcher or in collaboration
with other researchers to work through self-inquiry
cycles of planning, action, observation and
reflection, with a view to collect classroom data
and records that could serve as a justification to
develop ideas and action steps that improve their
teaching and facilitate students’ learning.
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Hopkins, D. (2002). A teacher’s guide to classroom research.
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