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Action Research: Innovations beyond ImpositionRobatjazi Mohammad Ali, M. A. in TEFL
in Foreign/Second Language Teaching
"Practice to Theorize to Practice"
The main premise of this paper is to highlight the significance and outcome of a nearly ignored or forgotten phenomenon in the domain of teaching and learning enterprise and arouse the dynamic potentialities teachers as professional researchers possess in action.
Macro-linguistics has already paved the way for micro-linguistics where action research can serve as a systematic and planned inquiry of theory into practice and as an approach to promoting education through transition, and where the researcher searches for information and practical knowledge which encourage the teachers to grow adventurous and critical in their beliefs and reflection so that they can develop theories, draw premises, and dig rationales for their action or practice in their actual teaching milieus.
Action research with a systematically designed framework helps teachers give reasoned justification for their public claims to professional knowledge. Action research autonomously helps teachers acknowledge their leadership roles to promote and support their own reflective programmes and contribute to their repertoire they enjoy on teaching and learning different subjects and terminate their thoughts and reflection in practice which [will] serves as a basis for a prospective theory.
Since language development with all its perspectives is a socially criterion-based enterprise, it should be studied, investigated, researched and analyzed where it is manipulated as a subject matter of learning and teaching. Foreign and second language teaching, though different on some grounds, share basic and fundamental principles that go hand in hand in the real action research milieu.
Finally, I contemplate to end the paper with a case-in-point reflecting on the experience in my own career as an EFL teacher (17 years of experience) in high school level touching upon an experiential, individual action research.
As an EFL teacher, I have always been wondering and reflecting on having transitions through my teaching career and making things happen. Studying and going through the theories or researches carried out- without any practice- by others makes you aroused and thoughtful for some, say, short time, but that is not the same thing where you as an individual involved in the action start inquires and then begin to find out the ways and solutions for the problem raised in mind.
Questions and solutions may frequent your mind until you commence acting as a researcher. Your students serve as your sample population and your colleagues as your collaborative group. Individually you scrutinize the subject matter and seek for collaboration from the others. Research, while one is in action and service, initiates and you come to a lot of questions or hypotheses, frameworks, procedures, implementation and finally findings and analysis for the problem in process.
We teachers well know that there are many things we desire to change: lengthening the time and period of working with a group as a class, lessening the stressful imposition from the ones on high in curriculum and teaching policies, dividing the class into homogeneous groups, and practicing our theories from practice. We can think of bringing technology into the classroom and observe the effects, think beyond the methods, practice theories and premises, make decisions, incorporate our findings into the teaching, and eventually help design the curriculum according to our findings and ask others to find out more about the subject matter with their further studies.
Teachers require flexible rather than strictly oriented criteria imposed on them throughout their teaching practice. Scientific, experimental, quasi-experimental findings etc. are well worth enough being attended; however, they handcuff and thwart the implementers and restrict them to contain findings that are time, place, and individual specific, and since they might be carried out by some, say, uninterested researches, they can be critically looked on and then scrutinized through action research. Time changes and we have to change accordingly. Modes of teaching and learning are true to their own nature and time. A theory-practitioner, here, say, a teacher, might be wrong if he insists on his implementation and application of a methodology designed for the situation of, say, 30 years ago.
Action research can help teachers critically observe themselves and their practice in actual classroom. It allows them to identify and address nearly any type of problem at a time and help them improve their educational practice. Once action research is oriented among the individuals, it can turn into a collaborative enterprise to compose a research club comprised of other teachers who have individually worked and have come to share their findings. Action research can reform schooling and develop the profession.
Action Research: What?
"Information is one when knowledge is double."
The argument is not whether action research is collaborative or individual; rather it focuses on what action means and does. Action research originates from the inquiry a teacher in action or service digs in his mind which is later involved in his practice leading him to different studies where other questions arise. It is a systematic inquiry that can be collective, critical, self-reflective or individual, or collaborative. It is a systematic mode for teachers to gather information about the ways according to which their particular school operates, how they teach, and how well their students learn. The information is gathered with the purposes of gaining insights, developing reflective practice effecting positive changes in the school environment, and improving student outcomes that in its turn help improve school productivity (Mills 2003). Action research is conducted by teachers for teachers. Wallace (2000) observes that it is a small scale, contextualized, localized, and aimed at discovering, developing or monitoring changes to practice. According to Fullan (2000), the reflective qualities include a deep understanding of the organization, vision and insight, a quest for new knowledge, a desire for improved performance, self-reflective activity, and willingness to effect changes. They are in effect individual as well as collaborative cultures of change.
Action research also refers to the phenomenon that is in its turn a discipline that is to help identify the kinds of methods that best work with a specific group of students that is reflective of post-method condition. It helps to identify the problem and find solutions, and how content, teaching strategies, and learning activities can be varied to help students of differing ages, gender, ethnicity, and ability to learn more. Action research can end in persuading all the agents involved in schooling and even parents to participate in the enterprise. Action research teaches teachers skills required to work on problems specific to their classrooms and their schools. They learn how to ask a focusing question, define terms, collect relevant data, use an analysis process that rules out bias, and includes methods that yield validity and reliability. Then the findings become applicable to their individual situations. It can be concluded that action research is a deliberate search for truth, information, and knowledge, an inquiry that is internal and subjective as well as external and data-based. It is a planned, continuous, and systematic procedure to reflect on professional practice and try out alternative practices to improve outcomes.
Cycle of Action Research
As action research is basically a methodological process, it is by nature planned, continuous, and systematic. It tends to reflect on professional practice and the action-researcher uses alternative practices experimentally to promote outcomes. It develops through a spiral of cycles: reflecting, planning, acting, data-collecting, analyzing, reflecting, planning, acting, data collecting, reflecting (Schmuck, R. 1997). Since the researcher is an individual who is directly handling, manipulating and touching upon his own practices- and at times others'- it proves more helpful to create more practical, and tangible alternative ways to improve his practice. Moreover, if the action-researcher scrutinizes the traditional researches carried out, he will better decipher the area of question in focus and better and more analytically conclude his enterprise (ibid).
In the cycle of action research, the framework suggested by Kemmis and McTaggert (1998) seems to work best to its true nature: (1) developing a plan for improvement, (2) implementing the plan, (3) observing and documenting the effects of the plan, and (4) reflecting on the effects of the plan for further planning and informed action. However, Mills (2003), while approving Kemmis and McTaggert's frameworks, took further steps to develop the following format for action research that outdoes any other. The educator shall (the parentheses are the author's):
- reflect on the practice (the author's),
- identify strengths and weaknesses of his practice (the author's),
- describe the problem and area of focus,
- define the factors involved in area of focus (e.g., the curriculum, school setting, student achievements, instructional strategies),
- develop research questions,
- describe the interaction or innovation to be implemented,
- develop a timeline for implementation,
- develop a list of resources to implement the plan,
- describe the data to be collected,
- develop a data collection and analysis plan,
- select appropriate tools of inquiry,
- carry put the plan (implementation, data collection, data analysis), and
- report the results.
This is only the beginning part of the paper. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.
Status Marking in Tamil - A Ph.D. Dissertation | Normative & Clinical Data on the Kannada Version of Western Aphasia Battery (WAB-K) | Concerns of Faith - Inclusive Language: Will It Solve the Problems? | What is Necessary in Pre-planned Materials? | A Research Report on Engineering Students' Performance in English Language Speaking Test | Action Research: Innovations beyond Imposition in Foreign/Second Language Teaching | Names - Legal and Illegal: From Cadbury's to Rationing of Personal Names | HOME PAGE of June 2008 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
Robatjazi Mohammad Ali, M. A. in TEFL
Department of Linguistics
University of Mysore
Mysore 570 006
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