Action research workshop

Last week, I was privileged to attend a one-off workshop on action research and mentoring.  Designed by Sydney University’s Department of Education and delivered by Dr Debra Talbot, the course dug deep into the underpinnings of this research methodology.  Practitioners embarking on an action research project:

  • recognise that there is a local problem and desires improvement
  • research knowledge about the problem from external sources
  • formulate an inquiry question that is specific
  • collect data within the local context
  • design a method of intervention
  • reflects and evaluate
  • bring others together to validate and collaborate

Debra discussed the principles through the work of Professor Stephen Kemmis, Charles Sturt University and Susan Groundwater-Smith. She presented strategies for working with teachers on their action research projects, planning the questions and collecting and analysing the data, modelling the strategies throughout the workshop. 

We used case studies to practise collecting data by classroom observation; we observed and discussed the challenges of working with interview data.  

As well as links to the grounded research underpinning this methodology, the take-home for me was that rigorous planning is vital, and getting the research question right is, perhaps, the hardest part. 

Debra outlined characteristics and principles of good practice in mentoring:

  • One-to-one mentoring relationship
  • Likely to be novice mentored by expert although equitable is also possible
  • Similarities with clinical supervision
  • Most importantly, it can serve to transform both partners in the mentoring process

This was a condensed workshop, custom-tailored.  Sydney University delivers an Action Research two-module 5 x 2 hour (each module) course, endorsed by NESA and addressing Australian Professional Teaching Standards.

Kemmis, S. (2009). Action research as a practice-based practice. Educational Action Research 17(3):463-474