(return to list of syllabi)

Participatory Action Research

Education Leadership and Policy Doctoral Program

Linda Purrington

In our Education Leadership and Policy (ELAP) doctoral program, students are enrolled in PAR for six terms. In the first two terms, they learn about the foundations of PAR--including origin, purpose, approach etc. They also investigate possible PAR study areas of focus within their organizations and within their sphere of influence. They identify a purpose and research questions. They engage in literature and other resource review to inform their work and they surface assumptions about what others believe they know about area of focus, purpose, questions to ensure that they address any incorrect assumptions that are not evidenced-based and to ensure that their study is really designed to address the work that matters most and for which PAR is appropriate.

In the second two terms, students launch the first and subsequent cycles of their PAR study. One cycle informs the next. In addition to taking action, collecting data, and analyzing outcomes for each cycle, students also reflect upon their leadership practice and the leadership capacity of others with whom they are collaborating.
In the final two terms, students wrap up their current cycle of PAR work. They develop a final report, a portfolio, a media presentation, and they interact with a panel to share the outcomes and related learning associated with their PAR work. The outcome sharing takes place in the final term in the form of a PAR conference. Students share their work and learning with small groups of their cohort colleagues and with first year ELAP students who are observing so that they will have the "end in mind" when it is their turn to present their outcomes. The presentations are co-facilitated and supported by faculty.
What is particularly exciting is that each of these students is addressing an educational need/opportunity and improving/making a difference in their organizations while they also strengthen their personal leadership and their ability to lead research-based and results-oriented change in collaboration with others. Also exciting, is the opportunity for students to present and publish their work in the form of future conference papers/presentations and or journal articles. We encourage students to share their work with a broader audience.
My role and the role of other professors who teach this strand of courses is to introduce PAR to student and to guide and support them throughout their PAR work and PAR presentation. The students also support one another as a result of their being organized into Learning Circles. The current ELAP students are organized into Learning Circles in which Circle members have common or related areas of PAR study focus. Learning Circles meet regularly to discuss their progress, to solicit feedback, to inquire about resources, to address challenges etc. Over the course of time, the Learning Circle members become very familiar with each other's work. They deepen their understanding and application of PAR through collectively discussing each other's work. They also challenge one another to "stretch" in terms of their leadership knowledge and development. As a PAR professor, I interact with Learning Circle groups and with individuals, in addition to working with the cohort as a whole.
What I personally find rewarding is the opportunity to support students in their efforts to improve their schools and organizations. In looping with the students across 6 terms, I am able to get to know the students and their work in-depth. I am also able to learn from each group and use what I learn to improve the PAR curriculum strand and learning experiences for each subsequent group of students. What I also find rewarding, is that many students share transformational experiences that have occurred as a result of their engagement in PAR study; including greater personal leadership self-awareness--what it means to be truly present and more intentional with regards to their practice--and a deeper understanding of leadership and followship as related to transforming organizations.
In ELA the students are engaged in PAR for three terms, as the ELA program is a one year program.
In the first term, the ELA students are introduced to the foundations of PAR and they plan their PAR study. In the second and beginning of third term, they engage in PAR study work. At the end of the third term, they present their outcomes and learning in the form of a paper, portfolio, media presentation, and via interaction with a faculty and graduate panel.
The difference between ELA and ELAP programs is the depth of study and implementation. ELA is a shorter time frame and therefore students engage in fewer cycles. Another difference is that ELAP students are generally already administrators and have a greater sphere of influence with regards to what they can tackle. ELA students are generally classroom teachers with aspirations of becoming administrators.
Some current ELAP PAR projects include:

  • -improving student literacy learning
  • -improving parent and student access to community resources that support learning
  • -improving teacher's science instructional practice
  • -improving teacher's use of authentic assessment to inform lesson design and instructional practice
  • -improving instructional coaching practice
  • -improving teacher's ability to facilitate student-led conferences
  • -improving culturally responsive teaching
  • -improving instructional practice related to English Learners


ELAP Program Syllabus
Fall 2009

Course Number: EDEL 774A (1 UNIT)

Course Title: Foundations of Inquiry

Faculty Information: Linda Purrington, Ed.D.
949 223-2568 (Office)
949 573-3320 (Cell)
949 495-5166 (Home Office)

Office Hours: Office Located at Irvine Graduate Campus
FTF meetings by appointment
Virtual meetings M-Friday, 7-8:30 a.m., 11-1pm, 6-8p.m. and by appt.

Class Days and Hours: September 11th 6-9:30 pm FTF @ WLA
September 13th noon-4:30 pm FTF @ WLA
Oct.-December Online

Course Description:
EDEL 774 A/B (1, 2) Foundations of Inquiry
Inquiry is a learning strand in ELAP that spans the two years of course work. The strand is comprised of three two-term courses, one course each term. This course is the first course in the foundation’s sequence in which students identify and explore a real-world project or issue within a school district/educational organization and begin planning strategies to resolve the issue. Each student works under the guidance of a faculty member and a senior district/organization official who serves as a field project advisor while completing the project. Students establish a relationship with the field project advisor and develop a learning contract to complete the project while learning to become an effective team member. Students gain an understanding of the guiding principals of action research, critical thinking, and problem solving in the context of the identified project.
This course engages students in studying their own school/organization through practitioner research that is credible and trustworthy. Students’ research should lead to increased knowledge and greater understanding about their own organizations. Students should leave the course with the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors to plan and implement a focused study of their organizations, understanding that practitioner research, or inquiry, is essential in transformational change and shaping culture as a transformational leader.
The purpose of this course is to prepare students to undertake a qualitative study of their own organization through action research. This course introduces students to qualitative research methodologies as it relates to practitioner research, action research, or inquiry. Students will: (a) identify the goal of their study, (b) design a data collection process, (c) establish credibility through building a web of credibility and triangulating their data, and (d) draw trustworthy interpretations, identifying findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
Strand Objectives
By the end of EDEL 774 A/B, students will be able to:
  • Select a focus for action research.
  • Clarify personal and group underlying feelings, beliefs, and insights re: inquiry problem or issue.
  • Construct research questions.
  • Collect valid and reliable data from multiple data sources.
  • Analyze the data to identify patterns, themes, and/or clusters of findings that relate to the research questions.
  • Draw inferences from the findings that suggest a potential course of leadership action.
  • Engage in reflective practice throughout action research cycles to support personal growth as an educational leader.

Course Objectives
By the end of this first course in the Foundations of Inquiry strand, EDEL 774 A, students will be able to:
  • Describe the historical context and multiple traditions of action research.
  • Identify key characteristics of action research and how it compares to other more traditional forms of academic research.
  • Explain criteria for quality and validity or trustworthiness in action research.
  • Interpret the potential political and micro political implications associated with action research.
  • Explain the relationship between multiple loop learning and action research.
  • Demonstrate their ability to conduct the planning phase of action research.
  • Propose possible areas of focus for action research within their schools/organizations.

Enduring Understandings
-Action research is a credible and viable research approach that can be used to improve both the quality and the justice of education in schools/learning organizations.
-Action research is a vehicle for the empowerment of practitioners, students, and communities toward a goal of institutional and social change from the inside.
-Action research generates knowledge out of ongoing problem solving in social settings.
-Action research challenges the sociopolitical status quo of the setting and therefore has sociopolitical implications that require researcher exploration and understanding.
-Action research, when done skillfully and with the welfare of students at the center of the research, can result in tremendous benefits for all involved.
-Action research can take many forms.
-Action researchers study social reality by acting within it and studying the effects of their actions.

Assignment Expectations

1. Preparation and Participation
Students are expected to come fully prepared to all ftf and online sessions, to participate actively, and to make the most meaningful contributions possible.

2. Finding a Focus Critical Friend Reflective Interviews and Learning Circle Conversation
Refer to p. 13-14 in Sagor’s text for procedure for engaging in Reflective Interview to explore possible areas for PAR study focus. Conduct two interviews with colleagues who are familiar with your learning community and your area of focus interest. Summarize interview outcomes—what you learned in a 3-5 paragraph narrative in BlackBoard. Title your narrative: Your Name Reflective Interview # and identify the date of interview and the person with whom you interviewed followed by narrative summary. Engage in Learning Circle SKYPE session to share your reflective interview outcomes with circle members and to further discuss your proposed area for PAR focus.

3. Ethical Plan
Address the considerations for developing an ethical plan on pp.31 and 32 of PAR text. Create a one page graphic organizer in which you engage in each of the five steps and report outcomes. Post organizer in BlackBoard.

4. Purpose Statement
Read purpose statement guidelines on pp. 33-34. Develop several purpose statements for your focus area of study. Use the two sentence guideline as describe on p. 33 and post your purpose statements in BlackBoard. Review the statements of your Learning Circle members and provide critical and constructive feedback in BlackBoard.

5. Research Questions
Develop 3 good research questions that are aligned with your proposed PAR study purpose and that represent the 5 elements of good research questions as described on p. 46 of PAR text. Engage in SKYPE conversation with Learning Circle members to discuss questions and good question elements. Post your questions in BlackBoard.

6. Surfacing Assumptions
Engage in surfacing assumptions activity as described on p. 51 and 52 of PAR text for each of your proposed research questions. Utilize the template to prompt and organize your responses for each of the three proposed questions. Post your completed template(s) in BlackBoard.

7. Learning Circle Conversation Summaries
Summarize the outcomes of your Learning Circle conversations in 2-3 paragraphs and post in BlackBoard. First LC conversation is around finding a focus. The second conversation is around developing good research questions.

Required Course Resources and Materials

James E., Milenkiewicz, M., & Bucknam, A. (2008). Participatory action research for educational leadership: Using data-driven decision making to improve schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Sagor, R. (2000). Guiding school improvement with action research. Alexandria. VA: ASCD.

American Psychological Association. (2001). Publication manual of the American psychological association (5th Ed.) Washington, D.C. American Psychological Association.

Recommended Reading

Anderson, G., Herr, K., & Nihlen, A.(2007).Studying your own school: An educator’s guide to practitioner action research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

Bogdan, R. & Biklen, S. (2003). Qualitative research in education: An introduction to theory and methods. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. (Required for 774B)

Burnaford, G., Fischer, J., & Hobson, D. (2001).Teachers doing research: The power of action through inquiry. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Coghlan, D. & Brannick, T. (2005).Doing action research in your own organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hammond, S. (1998).The thin book of positive inquiry. Plano, TX: Thin Book Publishing Company.

Leedy, P. & Ormrod, J.(2005). Practical research: Planning and design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. (Required for 774B)

Schein, E.(1997).Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Strunk, W., White, E. B., & Kalman, Maira.(2005). The elements of style. New York: Penguin Press.

Walstrom, D. (1999).Using data to improve student achievement: A handbook for collecting, organizing, analyzing, and using data. Virginia Beach, VA: Successline, Inc. Website: http://www.successline.com

Whitney, D., Cooperrider, D., Trosten-Bloom, A., and Kaplin, B.(2002).Encyclopedia of Positive Questions. Euclid, OH: Lakeshore Communications.

Zinsser, W. (2001).On writing well: The classic guide to writing nonfiction. New York: Quill.

Assignment Grading
Preparation and Participation 20 points
2 Reflective Interview Summaries (5pts ea.) 10 points
Learning Circle Summaries (5pts ea.) 10 points
Ethical Plan 15 points
Purpose Statements 15 points
Research Questions 15 points
Surfacing Assumptions 15 points
Total 100 points

Course Grading
A/4.0: 94-100 points All assignments are complete, on time, thorough, well edited, and exceed stated course requirements. All written work shows outstanding graduate level quality in expression, attention to detail, evidence of originality, organization and reflection. Learning is demonstrated by careful preparation for class sessions and thoughtful contributions as an individual and group member.

A-/3.7: 90-93 points All assignments are complete, on time, thorough, well edited, and exceed stated course requirements. All written work shows outstanding graduate level quality in expression, evidence of originality, organization and reflection. Learning is demonstrated by preparation for class, and thoughtful contributions as an individual and group member.

B+/3.3: 87-89 points All assignments are complete, edited, and at least meet all stated course requirements. All written work shows superior graduate level quality in expression, organization and reflection. Learning is demonstrated by preparation for class, and thoughtful contributions as an individual and group member.

B/3.0: 84-86 points All assignments are complete, edited, and at least meet all stated course requirements. All written work shows graduate level quality in organization and reflection. Learning is demonstrated by preparation for class, and contributions as an individual and group member.

A grade of “B” indicates superior graduate work. A course grade of “A” is reserved for candidates who demonstrate outstanding work throughout all aspects of the course. It is expected that ELAP students will earn assignment and course grades of “B” or better.

Course Outline
Dates/Times/Mode of Interaction
Essential Questions
Sept. 11th 6-9pm
What is the historical context of Participatory Action Research? and multiple traditions?
What are the defining characteristics of action research and how does it compare with other more traditional academic research?
What are examples of action research?
Read Chapters 1-3 in Participatory Action Research for Educational Leadership text.

Come prepared to share/discuss an area of interest and opportunity for improvement/building capacity in your work setting
Sept. 13th noon-4:30pm
Ftf at WLA
-What is double loop learning and how is it related to action research?
-What steps are included in the planning phase of action research?
-Exploring possible areas for PAR study focus, clarifying a purpose, forming an ethical plan, asking good research questions, and surfacing assumptions.
-Form Learning Circles
Read Infed article-Chris Argyris: Theories of Action, Double-Loop Learning and Organizational Learning.

Read Chapters 1-6 in Sagor’s Guiding School Improvement with Action Research
-Engage in 2 Critical Friend Interviews and develop a short 3-5 paragraph summary of interview outcome. See BB discussion board for directions and refer to Sagor text p. 13-14 for Reflective Interview Strategy for finding a PAR focus.
-SKYPE with Learning Circle Members to discuss possible areas for PAR study focus.
-Engage in Procedure for selecting an area for PAR focus as described on p. 34 of PAR text and post possible purpose statements in BlackBoard.
Post 2 Interview Summaries by Oct. 25rd
SKYPE with Learning Circle prior to Nov. 9th to discuss possible areas of focus for PAR study.
Post PAR purpose statements by Nov. 9th
Review the proposed purpose statements of your Learning Circle members and post critical/constructive feedback.
-Form an ethical plan as the foundation for your PAR study. Follow procedure on p.32 in PAR text and respond to Ethical Plan prompts in BlackBoard
-Identify 3 good research questions referring to the traits of good research questions as described on p. 46 in PAR text.
-Engage in procedure for surfacing assumptions related to each of the proposed questions and study focus as described on pp. 51-52. Complete a template for each of your questions and post in BB.
Post Ethical Plan responses by Nov. 23 rd
SKYPE with Learning Circle to provide one another feedback related to constructing good research questions.

Post Research Questions by Dec. 7th
Post Surfacing Assumptions Template Responses for each of 3 Research Questions by Dec. 7th

Attendance and Student Responsibilities:
Each student is expected to:
· Attend all face-to-face sessions and be “present” as an active participant;
· Fully participate in on-line discussions and assignments;
· Read assigned materials and be prepared to participate in small and large group discussions;
· Proof and revise written assignments to graduate-level performance standards;
· Notify professor of any emergency or extenuating circumstance that might impact participation or assignments;
· Participate as a member of a learning community by sharing responsibilities, providing critical feedback, and being a contribution to the community;
· Complete assignments on time.

Online Preparation and Participation Rubric
Asynchronous and Live Chat Expectations:
-Evidence of advance preparation/planning for discussion participation.
-Multiple references to course readings/discussions/related reading and experiences.
-Meaningful contribution to group thinking and reflection.
-Meaningful reflection on personal thoughts and actions.
-Timely participation.
-Responses fully address prompts/questions.
Thorough account, elegant, inventive, fully supported/verified, goes beyond information given
Revealing account, makes subtle connections, novel thinking, well-supported, goes beyond information given
Some in-depth and personalized ideas, supported theory but insufficient or inadequate evidence/argument
Incomplete account but with apt and insightful ideas, extends and deepens some of what was learned, limited evidence/support of argument
Superficial account, more descriptive than analytical or creative, fragmented account, less a theory than an unexamined hunch or borrowed idea.

FTF Preparation and Participation Rubric
Expectations for FTF sessions:
-Evidence of advance preparation/planning
-Regular Attendance
- Meaningful contribution to group thinking and reflection.
-Meaningful reflection on personal thoughts and actions.
-Shared responsibility for productive session outcomes (active engagement, collaboration, cooperation, attention to time)

Thoroughly prepared, fully present and engaged, multiple and very meaningful contributions to discussions/activities, mature and professional behavior
Well-prepared, present and engaged, multiple and meaningful contributions to discussions/activities, mature and professional behavior.
Prepared for the most part, present and engaged majority of time, some meaningful contributions to discussion/activities, mature and professional behavior.
Less than adequate preparation, present but not engaged majority of time, few if any meaningful contributions to discussions/activities, mature and professional behavior is not consistently demonstrated
Less than Minimal
Unprepared, not present, not engaged, no meaningful contributions to discussions/activities, inappropriate behavior

Writing Guidance and Support

Written assignments should demonstrate doctoral-level research, analysis, content depth, inquiry, and composition (syntax, grammatical structure, punctuation, spelling, and active voice). Submitted papers should adhere to APA publication style (6th edition).
GSEP Writing Support web site provides very helpful information regarding a number of writing support topics including: APA guidelines, Writing for Cohesiveness and Clarity, Avoiding Plagiarism, Using TurnitIn as a tool for promoting original writing and proper citation of borrowed material. In addition to the website and links, writing support ftf and virtual sessions are available for individuals and groups of students. For more information, visit GSEP Writing Support site via WaveNet and/or contact Regina Meister, Manager, Writing Support, 310.258.2815, www.gsep.pepperdine.edu/studentservices/writing/

Maintaining Copies of Assigned Course Work for Program Evaluation
The Graduate School of Education and Psychology evaluates its programs on an ongoing basis. The data from such evaluations provide us with information to help improve the quality of the educational experience we provide our students. In addition, the data are used by our accrediting bodies, such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). California Council on Teacher Credentials, and the American Psychological Association (APA), to make decisions as to whether we can maintain our accredited status with these respective associations. To this end, we may archive copies of the papers, examinations, exercises, etc. that students complete as part of their required course work so that we can track if students appear to be meeting the objectives of the program in which they are enrolled. Names will be removed from the assignments we opt to archive for evaluation purposes. If you prefer that your course work not be archived for evaluation purposes, please let me know immediately so that I can make such a notation in the files I keep for each student who enrolls in my courses.

Code of Conduct
The Graduate School of Education and Psychology strives to create a learning environment which is respectful of the rights and dignity of all members of our learning community. Students are expected to conduct themselves in a collegial, respectful, and professional manner while participating in all activities associated with this course. Students are expected to exhibit behaviors and attitudes consistent with appropriate ethical-legal standards, and to refrain from any fraudulent, dishonest, or harmful behaviors such as plagiarism, cheating, or harassment, which compromise the integrity of the academic standards of the university and/or impact the safety and security of fellow students, staff, and faculty. Failure to comply with appropriate standards of conduct may result in a grade of “F” in the course and dismissal from the program.

Plagiarism is commonly understood in the academic community to involve taking the ideas or words of another and passing them off as one’s own. When paraphrasing or quoting an author directly, one must credit the source appropriately. Plagiarism is not tolerated at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology.

Disability Statement
Any student with a documented disability (physical, learning, or psychological) needing academic accommodations should contact the Disability Services Office (Malibu Campus, Tyler Campus Center 225, 310.506.6500) as early in the semester as possible. All discussions will remain confidential. Please visit http://www.pepperdine.edu/disabilityservices/ for additional information.