(Action Research Methodology)
M.S. Ecological Teaching and Learning
Lesley University

GINTD 6037 3 Credits
Spring, 2010

Faculty: Jeff Birdsall, M.A.
Email: jeff@birdsallconsulting.com
Phone: 206-388-2788 Home/Office (PST)
206-354-1457 (mobile)

Course Description

This distance learning course examines positivistic and post-positivistic worldviews to inform our personal, collaborative communication, and leadership skills as they relate to ecological education pedagogy and the art of classroom inquiry. Students equate ecologically literate teaching with practice skills that promote understanding and cooperation among and within diverse groups and within differing viewpoints and philosophies. Ultimately students will examine the relationship between education and advocacy and assess identities as change agents, teacher-researchers, and teacher activists/leaders.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
· briefly survey research paradigms and be able to define Action Research in the context of these paradigms
· understand how Action Research can serve as a context for personal and professional renewal and reform
· understand professional selves by exploring personal & professional pasts
· identify research questions of importance to their professional practice
· review the professional literature related to a selected research question
· understand and apply ethical guidelines to their Action Research plan
· design an Action Research proposal to be enacted in the Fall semester
· continue to familiarize themselves with APA formatting
· practice participatory, experiential learning pedagogy skills

For MA certification candidates:
· Students will design an Action Research project that draws from Strand Four of the Massachusetts Science and Technology Curriculum Standards: Lifelong learners understand questions and problems of Science and Technology in the context of human affairs.

Course Outline

I. Action Research as a Pathway for Change: Preparation for Praxis
A. Review action research in context: Ontology, epistemology, and methodology of various research paradigms
B. Overview of action research
1. What is action research?
a) research for/with people (activist research)
b) works with action/reflection spiral (plan/act/reflect/re-plan…)
c) goals often interpretive rather than explanatory
d) differing approaches than traditional assessments of
validity and reliability
e) role of literature review
2. When and why is it an effective methodology for research?
3. How is it implemented?
C. Outcomes of action research for educators
1. Generation of knowledge about teaching and learning
2. Increased understanding of practice
3. Improvements in teaching and learning
4. Empowerment and changes in self-perception for teachers and

II. Design Action Research Project Proposal Incorporating an Aspect of
Teaching for Change (to be implemented in the fall semester)
A. Characteristics of a proposal
1. Employs innovative pedagogy
2. Is student-centered and inquiry-based
3. Is practical and compatible with teaching and learning environs
4. Meets tests of accessibility and equity
5. Promotes health and well-being of students, others in the
workplace, and the social and environmental community
B. Where do questions come from?
1. Personal history
2. Social change
3. Administrative directives
4. Professional literature
C. Elements of a research proposal
1. History of the question
2. Research purpose and rationale
3. Research context
4. Exploring biases and assumptions
5. Review of relevant literature
6. Data collection
7. Data analysis
8. Validity & reliability
9. Ethical concerns
10. Resources
11. Permissions
12. Timeline
13. Actions
D. Outcomes of action research for educators
1. Generation of knowledge about teaching and learning
2. Increased understanding of practice
3. Improvements in teaching and learning
4. Empowerment and changes in self-perception for teachers and

Course Requirements

· Participation in January seminars & workshops
· Timely, prepared, in depth, quality on-line engagement throughout the semester (discussions, reflections, & other activities)
· Reading: see Required Reading below
· Timeline of professional development
· Action research critiques
· Literature review
· Short draft & final Action Research proposal

Required Reading

Hubbard, R. S., & Power, B. M. (1999). Living the Questions: A guide for
teacher-researchers. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers (Chapters
1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, & 10)

Mills, G. E. (2007). Action research: A guide for the teacher
researcher. (3rd Ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education
Inc. (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6)

Selected articles

*Note: We will be working with the Hubbard & Power and Mills books again as you implement your action research projects in the fall semester.

Unpublished manuscripts posted on Blackboard

Additional Bibliography **

Arhar, J., Holly, M. L., & Kasten, W. C. (2001). Action research for
teachers: Traveling the yellow brick road. Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Merrill, Prentice Hall.

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

Hollingsworth, S. (Ed.). International action research: A casebook for
Educational reform. London: The Falmer Press.

Kemmis, S. & McTaggart, R. (1988). The action research planner.
Victoria, Australia: Deakin University Press.

Mertler, C., Dr. (2008). Action Research: Teachers as Researchers in the Classroom.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc; 2nd edition.

Reason, P. & Bradbury, H. (Eds.). (2001). Handbook of action research:
Participation inquiry and practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage

Schwalbach, E. M. (2003). Value and validity in action research:
Guidebook for reflective practitioners. Latham, ME: Scarecrow

Steinberg, S. R., & Kincheloe, J. L. (Eds.). (1998). Students as
researchers: Creating classrooms that matter. London: The Falmer

Stringer, T. E. (1999). Action research (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks:
Sage Publications.

Tomal, D. R. (2003). Action research for educators. Latham, ME: Scarecrow


Evaluation will be based on
· Active participation in the online forum.
· Student will engage in constructive peer feedback review of course assignments.
· Student will take intellectual risks – asking hard questions, critiquing the articles, making meaning from the discussion and the readings by personalizing the concepts and sharing those perceptions and the experimentation that results.
· Students will write their own self-evaluation at the end of the course and will propose a grade for their engagement. The faculty and student will confer on this grade.
· There is evidence that the student is designing a action research proposal that challenges the student and supports ecological education in action?

Course Assignments Details

Timeline for Professional Development

Create a time line of critical incidents and people who have influenced your educational life and/or your teaching self. Write a paragraph about each of the incidents and people explaining how they influenced you and your teaching or learning. Be sure to also include the consequences of that influence. While using the example in Living the Questions to stimulate your thinking (p.249), please also challenge yourself to make this personal and go deeply into the elements that have formed you. Some may have been challenging and some heartening.

Action Research Free Writes

Please do 7 minute free writes on each of the following questions (remember, no judging of what you are writing and keep that pen going!)
o What are three things that you are curious about related to professional practice?
o What are three concerns you have about being a caring and committed teacher or other professional?
o What three problems are dissatisfactions do you have or foresee, with your teaching or professional work?
Now, look at what you have--look at the nine things you have listed. What larger issues come to mind? Can you find an issue related to each curiosity, concern, and problem? Take one issue that holds promise as a research topic, and do another free-write about it. Focus on your thoughts, experiences, and questions related to this possible topic.
Take the issue you wrote about in your last free-write, and turn it into a statement of the problem you tentatively will investigate. Then pose a question, or two or three, that go to the heart of what you think is the problem.
Action Research Critiques

Select, read, and reflect on, two of the Action Research papers posted on Blackboard and develop a reflective summary of one of the readings, including the following:

1. APA citation of reading (unpublished manuscripts -- If you do not have access
to an APA style manual check out the Lesley library website.)
2. Purpose of article
3. Summary of key themes/ideas
4. Description of what was learned
5. Questions and implications for educational practice
6. Methodological questions and issues

Critiques should each be 1-2 pages single spaced.

Initial Review of Literature

Locate and read six “articles” with relevance to the focus of your research question. In order to explore different kinds of writings that may be useful, you will critique:
a) recent research article (last 5 years)
b) recent philosophical or pedagogical article (last 5 years)
c) newspaper, book chapter, magazine, other writing

Following the guidelines on the web link on the calendar on Blackboard, write a review of literature.

Data Collection Exercise: Observing at a movie theatre or art museum

The intention of this exercise is to gain some experience collecting data via observation. You will be able to see the art museum/movie theatre (or other appropriate public space if neither of these is available to you) as a place of movement, activity, silence, and so on. Watch for interactions of people with the art/movie. See this place as you’ve never seen it before. Be sure to apportion your time between the lobby and the museum/theatre itself. Please be in observation mode for 45 minutes and keep field notes during this time. Feel free to use drawings in your field notes as well if that feels appropriate.

Once the observation is over spend some time reflecting on the following:

1. How did I approach this task?
2. Where did I fit on the participant/observer continuum?
3. Was I fully present or did I get overwhelmed while trying to record all that was happening around me?
4. Did I take care not to allow my own desires, interests, needs, or thoughts to distort what I observed and wrote down?
5. What was most difficult for me in this exercise? And what can I do about it?
6. Would I change anything as I go into other observation situations next fall?

Ethical Guidelines Reflection Questions
1. How do you feel about these guidelines?
2. What reaction do you expect from your employer? participants?
3. How will you accomplish the following for your action research project?
§ Involve participants
§ Ensure confidentiality
§ Ensure anonymity
§ Inform participants of the right to withdraw
§ Build relationships of trust
§ Be self reflective
Biases and Assumptions

In qualitative research the researcher is the instrument for data collection (rather than a questionnaire or test, as in a quantitative study). If you are interviewing, you choose what questions to ask and in what order. If you’re observing, you choose what and when to observe. Therefore, it’s important to know what values, assumptions, beliefs, or biases you bring to the study. Researchers need to reflect on their own values, etc. and monitor them as they progress through the study (reflective journaling, peer debriefing) to determine their impact on the study’s data and interpretations. It is, therefore, essential that you gain clarity about preconceptions. This helps you to investigate your question from a fresh and open viewpoint without prejudgment or imposing meaning too soon. This process is an ongoing analytical process rather than a fixed event (as our biases and assumptions can change throughout the study). Take some time now to reflect deeply on your biases and assumptions relative to your action research question.

Short Action Research Proposal

Your short proposal can be written in an informal, first person narrative style. Include a reference section at the end for the works you have cited in your literature review. The length should be 5-8 pages double spaced. Be sure to address the following questions:
    • What is my research interest?
    • What will I try out?
    • How will I document the process?
    • How will I verify that my judgments are trustworthy and credible?
    • How will I interpret the data?
    • How will I portray what I have learned and make it public?
    • How will these actions make life better? And what will I do next?
    • Who will be my critical colleagues?
    • What permissions do I need to gain?
Final Action Research Proposal

When submitting your final research proposal be sure to address the following areas of content. They do not need to be in this particular order as long as the flow makes sense to the reader. You are expected to learn and use APA formatting for this assignment.

1. History leading to interest in this area of inquiry
History as a learner and teacher
Themes and issues arising from my history
2. Questions:
Burning Question
Related subquestions
3. Research Purpose and Rationale:
Why is this an important area of study?
What do I want to be able to do with the information I gather and analyze?
What do I want to be able to say something about?
Who and/or what do I hope to influence?
4. Context and Activity Setting
Description of school and/or community
Where will I focus my attention?
What part of the day, school year, school, etc.?
What space?
Which students or participants?
What aspects of practice will I study?
What specific teaching/learning engagements will I investigate?
If I am implementing new practices, what are they (describe in detail)?
Description of the specific activity setting
5. Data Collection
What information do I already have that informs my study?
What information will be natural parts of the element of practice I plan to
What additional information will I need to collect?
What will key stakeholders count as evidence, if I hope to influence others?
Description of the various types of data that will be collected.
6. Data Analysis
How might I go about making sense of my data?
How will I organize it?
Description of how you think you will organize and analyze your data.
7. Review of Relevant Literature
What can I learn about my topic by reading the writings of others?
What are different sources for useful literature?
Synthesis of the relevant literature you reviewed.
8. Data Presentation
How do I hope to share this information (within school, local or national conferences, presentations, written forms - policy brief, newspaper article,
Bread Loaf magazine, journal article, book, etc.).
What forms will be most convincing and appropriate to key stakeholders?
Description of your plan for sharing what you’ve learned.
9. Time Line
Plan for implementation of practices and phases or cycles of study
10 Resources
Related readings, people, potential collaborators, other
11. Permissions
Students, parents, school district, other (Include sample permission forms).
12. Ethical concerns
What potential ethical issues do I need to consider?
Describe the ethical issues and how you will address them.
13. Actions
What actions/changes do you anticipate as a result of your study?
How will you do things differently?


Lesley University's Academic Integrity Policy
Academic honesty and integrity are essential to the existence and growth of an academic community. Each member of the Lesley community is charged with honoring and upholding the University’s policies and procedures governing academic integrity. Please become familiar with the academic integrity policy, which includes information about documenting sources, plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, multiple submissions of work, abuse of academic materials, complicity/unauthorized assistance, and lying/tampering/theft. The complete policy can be found on the Lesley University website: http://www.lesley.edu/policies/catalog/integrity.html.

Plagiarism is presenting the work of another as one’s own (i.e., without proper acknowledgment of the sources). Plagiarism may occur orally, visually, or conceptually as well as in writing.
Examples: Using text, facts, figures, graphs, images, charts or other information without acknowledgment of the source; copying work found on the internet and submitting it as one’s own.

Multiple Submissions
The submission of substantial portions of the same academic work (including oral reports) for credit more than once without prior written authorization.
Examples: Submitting the same paper for credit in two courses without both instructors’ prior permission; making minor revisions in a paper or report (including oral presentations) and submitting it again as if it were new work.

Students who find it impossible to complete course requirements by the final due date may request an incomplete. If it is absolutely necessary you must notify your instructor, in writing, prior to the end of the course and explain your need for a grade of incomplete. University policy requires an incomplete form to be completed by the student and the instructor prior to the end of the course. The instructor has the prerogative to grant (or not) an incomplete request. Depending on the circumstances, late projects may be dropped one grade level, for example, from an A- to a B+. If an incomplete is needed, it must be taken care of no later than the end of the semester immediately following the current semester. Once again, an incomplete is not recommended as an option if there is any way to avoid it.

Support Services for Students
Lesley University is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs.

Disability Services for Students
Lesley University is committed to ensuring that all qualified students with disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from its programs and services. To receive accommodations, a student must have a documented disability as defined by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and provide documentation of the disability. Eligibility for reasonable accommodations will be based on the documentation provided.

If you are a student with a documented disability, or feel that you may have a disability, please contact:

Laura J. Patey, Coordinator of Disability Services for Students
1-800-999-1959 ext. 8194, or 617-349-8194 (voice)
617-349-8544 (TTY)
617-349-8558 (fax)
lpatey@lesley.edu (email)

Computer Support Services (Office of University Technology-UT)
The Office of University Technology assists Lesley students, faculty and staff with technology-related questions. UT is comprised of four groups: User Support, Instructional Computing, College Information Services, and Technical Operations. More information about UT’s mission and a list of online tutorial computer classes can be found at the UT web page: http://www.lesley.edu/oit/home.html.

Lesley University Library Online Services & Resources
Students are encouraged to use Lesley Library’s online services and resources in preparation of reports. The “myLibrary” tab on myLesley (https://my.lesley.edu) offers access to services and resources for academic research, including personal help through Ask-A-Librarian, access to online journal articles and e-books through the library databases, and quick links to other library services, such as requesting article copies.

The Quick Guide to Off-Campus Library Services provides complete details. The Guide can be downloaded at http://www.lesley.edu/library/guides/quick.pdf.

Center for Academic Achievement - Writing Support
We are pleased to announce that all Lesley degree students are eligible and can receive online writing tutoring support through the Center for Academic Achievement. The basic process is for a student to send their work as an attached Microsoft or rich text document (see required information at URL listed below). The tutoring staff will review a maximum of 10 pages per assignment and have a two business-day turnaround. Additionally, tutors can work with students on a one-to-one tutorial over the phone.

The following link provides more details about the service and the required information that needs to be submitted: