Survey on action research in classrooms - Results
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The recent School Education Gateway survey on action research found that most respondents are familiar with action research and believe it sharpens critical awareness and provides actionable results, but that further support is needed through asynchronous training, guidelines and hearing about other teachers’ experiences.
Classroom-based action research is a powerful tool in teachers’ professional development, as its focus is on improving teaching and learning (Tripp, 2005). It is based on a cycle of continuously planning, acting, observing and reflecting. It is different from other forms of research in that it is specifically suited for teachers seeking to reflect on their work, solve problems and come up with evidence-based improvements for their own professional practices. It involves systematic observations and data collection which can then be used to reflect and make decisions about adopting or developing more effective classroom strategies (Parsons & Brown, 2002).
This survey aimed to gauge views on diverse aspects linked to classroom-focused action research. It was open on School Education Gateway from October to November 2021 and attracted 144 respondents from 25 countries, 84% of whom were teachers or school leaders.
Results (N = 144)
1. To what extent are you familiar with action research?
One in four respondents is familiar with action research to a great or very great extent and more than half (56%) to a moderate or small extent. However, 18% are not acquainted with action research at all.
2. Have you ever conducted action research, as described above (a systematic continuous process of planning, acting, observing and reflecting)?
The majority of the respondents (63%) have conducted action research – as part of their initial teacher education (14%), in their teaching practice as qualified teachers (33%), or both (17%). A lower 37% have never engaged in action research.
3. How widespread do you think action research is among teachers in your country?
Most respondents agreed to a small extent that action research is a widespread methodology in their country, and another 16% indicated that it is moderately common. Only 3% indicated that action research is a nationally widespread methodology to a great extent. On the other hand, 16% suggested that action research is not nationally widespread at all.
4. In your view, which of the following advantages of action research is the most important? Please choose up to three options.
Approximately 72% of the respondents believe that the most important advantage of action research is that it sharpens teachers’ critical awareness through the observation and analysis of classroom events, while 50% value the fact that action research bridges the gap between understanding and action. The provision of concrete actionable results is also perceived as a significant benefit by the respondents (40%).
Less highly ranked were the possibility of deploying quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods (12%), and the fact that action research does not disrupt the teaching process (10%).
5. Based on your personal experience, to what extent do you agree with the following impact statements? Action research enables teachers to…
I don’t know
As for the impact of action research, respondents reported that action research may help teachers to think systematically about their school or classroom (87% agreed or strongly agreed) and improve their understanding of their students and the way they learn (86%). Moreover, similar percentages consider that action research may improve teachers’ competence in monitoring complex situations (85%), monitoring the effects of their action for continuous improvement (83%), and improving their understanding of effective teaching techniques (83%).
On the other hand, opinions are split on whether action research improves teachers’ chances of promotion, since 37% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, 28% were neutral, and 28% disagreed or strongly disagreed.
6. Which of the following pose obstacles for teachers’ implementation of action research? Please choose up to three options.
According to respondents, the top three obstacles preventing teachers from implementing action research are: lack of knowledge about action research (72%), lack of time (50%), and lack of suitable guidance such as kits and guides (37%). At 11%, the lack of publication opportunities is considered the least important barrier.
7. Which of the following elements would support you in getting engaged with action research? Please choose up to three options.
Looking at the support teachers need to engage in action research, respondents suggest that asynchronous training (47%), guidelines in the form of a kit or guide (44%), and examples and testimonials from other teachers (42%) are needed. Among the other options, awareness campaigns (14%) are perceived as having the lowest potential impact.
The majority of participants are, at least to some extent, familiar with action research, and have conducted action research either as part of their initial teacher education or later on, as qualified teachers. Nevertheless, the survey results indicate that action research is not a very widespread methodology in respondents’ countries.
According to this survey, action research is most valued for sharpening teachers’ critical awareness, bridging the gap between understanding and action, and providing concrete, actionable results. In terms of impact, respondents believe that action research improves teachers’ systematic thinking about their school or classroom, as well as their understanding of their students. Additionally, action research may help teachers to monitor complex situations.
On the flip side, the three chief obstacles that prevent teachers from implementing action research are a lack of knowledge, time and guidance. In this respect, the respondents acknowledge that asynchronous training, guidelines and examples/testimonials from other teachers would support them.
You can find out more about action research in our latest tutorial, with useful resources, articles, publications and good practices to inspire and guide your work.
Annex: Role of respondents