What is action research, why do it, and how is it done? These three questions were the focus of last Thursday’s (October 8) Brown Bag at the CLS, where language faculty, graduate students, and staff gathered to discuss the definitions, procedures, and possibilities for action research in language classrooms at Yale.
A quick brainstorming session among the approximately 20 participants elicited a number of general characteristics: action research happens in one’s own classroom and among one’s own students; it attempts to answer a pressing question about teaching and/or learning that is likely shared by others in other contexts; it illuminates or provides evidence of aspects of student learning and/or teaching effectiveness; it suggests a way forward for experimentation, change and improvement in the classroom. As Cohen and Manion (1985, p. 174) synthesize, action research can be thought of as “small-scale intervention in the functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such intervention” (cited in Crookes, 1993, p. 131).
After reviewing steps for identifying issues, articulating research questions, and collecting various kinds of suitable data, Nelleke walked the group through the steps necessary to gain approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB), and to pursue informed consent from students and any other participants in action research projects (see Yale’s Human Research Protection Program website, which includes resources such as training requirements, exemption determinations and a template for informed consent).
Last Thursday’s Brown Bag was the first of a series of events supporting action research by language instructors at Yale. Upcoming events are as follows:
- Thursday, Oct. 15: Brown Bag: Proposal Writing
- Thursday, Nov. 12: Brown Bag: Research in the language classroom (showcase of faculty projects)
- Tuesday, Nov. 17: Testing Workshop: Designing research projects using language tests
In the meantime, anyone interested in talking about ideas for action research projects is welcome to contact Nelleke or Suzanne, and of course to discuss more here in the comments on this post. You might also like to consult these readings:
- Crookes, Graham. 1993. Action research for second language teachers: Going beyond teacher research. Applied Linguistics, 14(2), pp. 130-144.
- Burns, Anne. 2005. Action research: An evolving paradigm? Language Teaching, 38(2), pp. 57-74.
- McDonough, Kim. 2006. Action research and the professional development of graduate teaching assistants. The Modern Language Journal, 90. pp. 33-47.
- Farrell, Thomas S. C. 2007. Reflective language teaching: From research to practice. Continuum. (contact Dave for access to pertinent sections)