This paper presents a self-study action research inquiry into how I as a lecturer in computer science in a third level institute of technology in Ireland can improve my professional practice. For this inquiry I used living educational theory as proposed by Jack Whitehead (1989) to frame the inquiry into how I could improve one aspect of my professional practice, which I initially intended would focus on my attempts to engage in educational research to further inform and improve my practice. However, in actuality, the paper represents my struggle to improve my understanding and management of all aspects of my professional practice. The paper will start by presenting an overview ...view middle of the document...
Most action research models and methodologies align with Herr and Anderson’s view (2005, p. 3) that “action research is inquiry that is done by or with insiders to an organization or community, but never to or on them … is oriented to some action or cycle of actions that organizational or community members have taken, are taking, or wish to take to address a particular problematic situation” and that as a result of action research inquiries “changes occur either within the setting and/or within the researchers themselves”.
However, as Noffke (1997, p. 306) contends, while the numerous models, approaches and methodologies which exist can be viewed as a family sharing a common history with many characteristics in common, it is a family “in which beliefs and relationships vary greatly”. McNiff and Whitehead (2011, p. 10) contend that this disagreement relates to the balance between the action, to improve practice, and the research, to explore issues relating to this practice to create new knowledge through understanding, evaluation and analysis, as well as whether Herr and Anderson (2005, p. 2) term the ‘locus of control’ of the inquiry lies with the researcher or the practitioners.
The focus of this paper is a self-study action inquiry and, while a range of approaches can be used, action research is commonly adopted (Samaras & Freese, 2009). Feldman, Paugh, and Mills (2004) contend that for self-study action research, it is important to understand the balance between not only the action and the research but also the self and the study. Before selecting a model of action research to adopt in a self-study inquiry it is therefore important to understand how each model addresses each of these dimensions. This is influenced by when and how they evolved and the contexts in which they are primarily used. The remainder of this section will therefore present an overview of a series of models representative of the major types of action research, exploring how they have evolved and paying particular attention to the type of role participants and the expected impact action research may have on them.
Kurt Lewin is generally accepted to have been one of the first to develop a theory of action research (Adelman, 1993) during his work in the 1940s focused on enacting social change through involving practitioners in decision making which affected their workplace or organisation contending that only by doing so could practice truly be understood and changed successfully (Lewin, 1946). Lewin proposed a controlled, systematic approach using a spiral incorporating cycles of action, see Figure 1, starting with the identification of an idea, moving to a phase of fact-finding before planning an action, developing a plan for implementing that action followed by evaluation and amendment of that plan before beginning another cycle of implementing that action plan.
Figure 1 : Lewin's Spiral Model of Action Research. Reprinted from “Kurt Lewin: groups,...