Using Action Research to Advance Planning and

Report
Using Action Research
to Advance Planning
and Learning (Part 1)
Lisa Armour, Ph.D.
Vice President for Assessment, Research, and Technology
Santa Fe College
Wendi Dew
Director, Faculty and Instructional Development
Valencia College
Today’s Learning Outcomes
• Identify the elements of action research
• Give examples of action research frames as
means for inspiring professional development
for faculty
• Relate action research frames to iterative
cycles of improvement within a department or
division
• Discuss action research as a tool for meeting
department planning and learning goals
• Identify resources available to faculty
conducting action research projects
Action research attempts to provide some
insight into how students learn.
It encourages teachers,
counselors and librarians to use
their classrooms, offices and
libraries as laboratories for the
study of learning.
Tom Angelo
Action Research supports data-informed
decision-making by faculty.
• The purpose of action research is to make
decisions
• Research questions derive from individual
practice
• Theory plays a secondary role
(Mc Millan, J. H. & Wergin. J. F., Understanding and Evaluating
Educational Research)
Action Research is
• A deliberate, solution-oriented
investigation
• Characterized by spiraling cycles of
• problem identification
• systematic data collection
• analysis
• reflection
• data-driven action
• problem redefinition
(Kemmis & McTaggart, The Action Research Planner)
Plan
Plan
Reflect
Plan
Reflect
Act
Observe
Act
Observe
Reflect
Act
Observe
“Ways in” to the Scholarship of Teaching
and Learning (SoTL)
• Examine unexplained student successes, in order to
replicate or build on them
• Focus on critical and challenging teaching goals
and/or student learning outcomes
• Apply general, research-based principles for good
practice in teaching and learning to our specific
practice
• Examine a hunch (developed through observation
and practice) about what is likely to work
• Focus on a common problem or an issue that seems
to recur
Tom Angelo

Which action research frames (or “ways in” to
SoTL) could you emphasize to inspire professional
development in your department?
Action Research supports improved
individual practice, and serves as an
incubator for institutional innovations.
• Applied research develops faculty as informed change
agents, focused on improving student learning through
reflective teaching
• Faculty insights, based on direct observation of students,
contribute to innovative institutional practices and
programs related to student engagement and learning
• Direct evidence of student learning informs institutional
strategy
Elements of an Action Research Project
 Clear Goals (Abstract and Research Question)
 Adequate Preparation
 Appropriate Methods
 Significant Results
 Reflective Critique
 Effective Presentation
Writing an Effective Research Question
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Does it address a persistent problem or area of concern in the
class/professional setting?
Is it specific, significant, and related to improving student
learning?
Can the goal or standard for students’ achievements be clearly
stated?
What kind of evidence can be produced to show the situation as
it is?
Is it within the faculty member’s power to address the question
(teaching strategies, classroom activities, student assignments)?
Is it feasible in terms of time, effort and available resources?
Can action be taken based on the results?
Is this an area where the faculty member is willing to make a
change?

Do you have experience with research questions
embedded in Faculty Learning Outcomes associated
with action research? If so, do they typically exhibit
the qualities of an effective research question?

How can you inspire faculty to pursue research that
assists you in meeting department learning goals?

How can you coach faculty to ensure the research
questions they pose are feasible in terms of time,
effort, and available resources?
Elements of an Action Research Project
 Clear Goals
 Adequate Preparation (Perspectives)
 Appropriate Methods
 Significant Results
 Reflective Critique
 Effective Presentation
Action Research supports reflective or
scholarly teaching.
• Finding answers to educational problems is a
complex undertaking. Whether awareness of
the problem arises as a result of classroom
observation, the reading of learned journals or
armchair theorising, there is always a range of
perspectives that can be brought to bear on a
problem.
Mary Ainley and Sarah Buckley
Perspectives to Consider
• Look at the work from multiple perspectives
o Student
o Colleague
o Expert
o Self

What do
• interaction with students
• interaction with colleagues
• the literature
• your personal experience
tell you about topics of importance in your
department or discipline?
Elements of an Action Research Project
 Clear Goals
 Adequate Preparation
 Appropriate Methods (Methods and Assessment)
 Significant Results
 Reflective Critique
 Effective Presentation
Student Learning Outcomes, Performance
Indicators, and Assessments
•
•
•
•
Are the Student Learning Outcomes observable,
measurable, and consistent with shared
expectations (e.g. Course Outlines)
Do identified Performance Indicators provide
convincing evidence of student learning?
Will the chosen assessments provide direct
evidence of mastery of the Student Learning
Outcomes?
Validity is the extent to which an assessment
measures what it is supposed to measure.
Teaching Strategies, Action Research and
Methodology Design
•
For an action research project, consider these
questions:



•
•
What teaching strategies are appropriate for achieving the
Student Learning Outcomes?
What data would convince other professionals (particularly
faculty members in the discipline) of the level of student
mastery of the Student Learning Outcomes?
How can the project be organized and described so that it will
serve as a catalyst for improvement as well as a blueprint?
Focus on one or two valid measures of the
project’s impact.
Reliability is the extent to which an experiment
is repeatable and yields consistent results.
Please join us
after the break
for Part 2!
Using Action Research
to Advance Planning
and Learning (Part 2)
Lisa Armour, Ph.D.
Vice President for Assessment, Research, and Technology
Santa Fe College
Wendi Dew
Director, Faculty and Instructional Development
Valencia College

What are the student learning outcomes central to
student success in your department or discipline?

What are some related performance indicators and
assessment measures?

Would these assessment measures be considered
convincing by most faculty in your discipline?

How can you promote the use of assessment
measures considered convincing by most faculty in
your discipline within individual action research
projects?
Elements of an Action Research Project
 Clear Goals
 Adequate Preparation
 Appropriate Methods
 Significant Results (Project Results)
 Reflective Critique
 Effective Presentation
Action Research makes a difference!
A. Are results described clearly and completely?
B. Did the students achieve the Student Learning
Outcomes?
C. What if they did not achieve the SLOs?
Interpretation of Results
• Cause and Effect vs. Correlation
o Action research may reveal correlation between variables,
but often it will not establish a cause and effect relationship.
o Controlled experiments are needed to convince
sophisticated readers of a cause and effect relationship
between variables.
o Faculty may choose to make cases for cause and effect
based on their professional judgment. If they do, they
should explain the factors informing their judgment.
Explanations
• When correlation is claimed, explanations other
than cause/effect (confounding variables)
should be considered and explained.
• What perceived impact did the project have in
terms of changes in knowledge, abilities,
attitudes, values and commitment of students
or faculty?
• Were the results as expected?

How can we use action research to make learning
more meaningful to students?
Elements of an Action Research Project
 Clear Goals
 Adequate Preparation
 Appropriate Methods
 Significant Results
 Reflective Critique (General Reflection, Essential
Competencies)
 Effective Presentation
Action research includes reflection about
what has happened, as well as reflection
about what should happen next.
In a reflective critique, faculty
• Analyze the project
• Apply professional judgment
• Share insights
• Describe plans for improvement
• Express personal observations in a
professional manner
Elements of an Action Research Project
 Clear Goals
 Adequate Preparation
 Appropriate Methods
 Significant Results
 Reflective Critique
 Effective Presentation
Effective Presentation
Spelling, grammar, and style are important
Pay attention to language and tone
Charts and graphs should be used when possible
“Accessible” (audience-appropriate) statistics
should be provided
• Measures of central tendency and measures of
variation should be included when quantitative
data are described.
• Valencia’s Action Research Builder provides
structure
•
•
•
•
Learning-centered Planning and
Assessment
• Learning-centered questions are the essential
foundation for strategic planning and
learning-centered program assessment
• Key Questions
o “Ways In” to an iterative cycle of
improvement
• What do we want to change or improve about student learning,
development and/or the student experience?
• How will this impact student learning?
• How will we know?
Planning Essentials:
A Cascading Mission
Cascading Mission,
Goals and Outcomes
 Meaningful
connection to
institutional
planning across
all units
 Critical alignment
to the mission
and goals
 Meaningful
assessment and
improvement
“down and in”
 Creates
opportunities for
unit-to-unit
collaboration
Strategic Plan
Institution
(Mission, Vision
Goals, Outcomes)
Program,
Discipline, Division
or Unit Planning
Annual Faculty and
Staff Planning/
Development
Individual
- Kurt Ewen, Valencia College
Planning Essentials:
Collaborative, Inter-related Reflection and Planning Cycles
Strategic Plan
Mission, Vision
Goals, Outcomes
Use data to
make
decisions to
improve
over time
Program,
Discipline, Division
or Unit Planning
Annual Faculty and
Staff Planning/
Assessment
Measures
and Criteria
for Success
Development
Document and analyze
evidence
- Kurt Ewen, Valencia College

Some “ways in” to the Scholarship of Teaching
and Learning (slide 8) for individual faculty are
o Focus on critical and challenging teaching goals
and/or student learning outcomes
o Focus on a common problem or an issue that
seems to recur

How can you partner with faculty conducting action
research so their “ways in “ to SoTL have the
additional benefit of serving as department or
division “ways in” to an iterative cycle of
improvement?
Planning and Learning
Outcomes to Assessment
• Planning Objectives/Outcomes are brief, clear
statements that describe the desired outcomes of
the organization, division, or unit
o Division Action Plan (academic units)
o Department Action Plan (non-academic units, Student Affairs)
o May or may not be learning outcomes
• Learning Objectives/Outcomes are clear
statements that describe the desired learning result
o What students should be able to know or do at the end of a
program, course or co-curricular experience (specific skills,
values, and attitudes)
o Curricular and co-curricular learning outcomes

How will you ensure alignment of your planning
goals and outcomes, as well as the college’s learning
goals and outcomes with
o
o
The Faculty Learning Outcomes associated with individual
projects (specifically action research projects)
Student Learning Outcomes associated with individual faculty
projects

What resources are available to faculty conducting
action research projects?

What resources are available to deans sponsoring
action research projects?
Thanks for
participating!

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