resources icon.pngFinding your Research Question

Is your work in alignment with your values? Does your practice achieve the goals you set for yourself? Examine the distance between your values and your practices, between your practice and your image of perfection. What would have to change to move you and your workplace closer to your visions and values. This is where you begin to see the power of action undertaken as research.

1) Examining Values Vs. Practice & Community

----Jack Whitehead has written extensively about action research and specifically how values can be used to help determine one's research question. He provides the following questions to help think about values: Value Searching Ideas

---- If you are having trouble thinking about values and specifically your values, use one of the online free assessment of your character and values:
VIA Institute on character __www.viacharacter.org__ Than you can use the results of these questions to think about how your values shape your work.

-- Lesley Wood, Tulsidas Morar & Linda Mostert have written an insightful paper on action research with a great description of the role of values in helping you find your research question. Here is a short passage from the paper, but I am sure you will want to read the whole article.

For example, one of the researchers was concerned about the fact that very few students actually prepared for class, despite being repeatedly reminded of how important pre-reading and preparation was. Instead of formulating the research problem along the lines of 'Why do students not prepare for class?' she asked herself 'How can I adapt my teaching to encourage students to prepare for class?' Action research therefore involves taking personal initiative in the testing out in practice of ideas for improvement, and as such is an ideal way to contribute to improvement and change in education. By changing and improving our own teaching and learning practices, we are contributing to the process of transformation in our immediate environment.
Questions that we individually and collectively ask ourselves as we engage in the process of transformation include:

• Do I treat every student with the same respect and dignity?

• Do I treat colleagues with respect and dignity?

• Are my classrooms emancipatory?

• What do I do in my teaching to contribute to the myth of student powerlessness?

• How do my values/cultural background benefit/disadvantage my students?

• Do I acknowledge and encourage diverse opinions?

• Do I provide for educational self-determination?

• Do I take into account student diversity and individual differences?

• Am I providing a quality education?

From Wood, Morar, Mostert (2006:69)

2) Explore Action Research Reports for Ideas


Reading Action Research projects will help you develop your understanding of action research. You are looking forwhat was the overarching goal of this action research. As you read, ask yourself what was the the challenge or overall research question. This question is what prompts the action and helps provide direction through the iterative cycles of change.
Action Research Projects with Communities
Action Research Projects with Students

3) Inspiration for Reflection

A video montage of images and words by Mellisa Medley, Al Rainaldi and Will Wright that might help inspire you to think about your ability to make real lasting change in your context.

4) Strategies and Tools for Planning Action Research

Planning your action research is a process of envisioning what your workplace would be like if it was in perfect alignment with your values and goals and then thinking about what manageable steps will result in change in this direction. Here are some other strategies and tools you can use to find your research question/challenge.

3) Using Critical Teaching Questions to suggest areas for Action Research

These questions were modified to related to range of setting from a list that was provided by the National Teachers of Mathematics Council.

  • Reflecting on the goals you have for your teaching--
    • How appropriate are the tasks you are using for developing an understanding of the content being taught?
    • What new tools or techniques could you use to help your students develop their knowledge? (Blogs, flipped classroom, project-based learning, student-driven learning)

  • Reflecting on the classroom discourse that occurs, including the classroom environment that is created:
    • How effectively do you use questioning to help students develop their understanding?
    • What techniques and strategies are used to orchestrate and promote student discourse and how effective are these strategies implemented?
    • Are there alternative questions that could have been asked to further the development of student understanding? What are they?

  • Reflecting on student learning:
    • What strategies were used to assess student understanding?
    • What evidence is there that students have learned the content being taught?

  • Reflecting on the teaching decisions made:
    • What decisions have you made to achieve the goal of reaching all students?
    • How were transitions made and how effectively was this done?
    • How effectively are student mistakes and misconceptions dealt with?
    • How effectively does the teacher determine when to clarify, explain, question or let a student struggle?

  • Reflecting on the content being taught:
    • What are the critical ideas in this lesson and how significant are they?
    • How are contexts, representations, connections and applications used to enhance the content being taught?

Return to Tutorial 3 or T3: ActivitiesMove forward to T5: Plan for Action