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This course is the heart of your work in the program.This graduate program revolves around your action research, all of your classes, your readings, and your different learning communities are designed to help you in your work on a research project that you will select. This course has four sections, A, B, C, and D and so we will be together throughout the year.

Action research is a process of deep inquiry into ones practices in service of working toward goals that align with values. It involves taking action (or attempting change) and collecting data to analyze and understand the actions from the perspectives of others and in relationship to a projected outcome. It is cyclic or spirals as the researcher moves through a period of thoughtful planning of the action, to taking actions, then analyzing evidence collected to make sense of the actions. The final step--critical reflection on what was learned--is used to create conceptual tools for planning of new actions. As one progresses through cycles, there is a continuous process of refining methods, making new decisions about data collection and evolving strategies for data interpretation.

The understanding developed through reflection on earlier cycles shapes the process of inquiry often in new directions. Action research is then an iterative process which converges towards a better understanding of what happens as a result of actions taken. Because practices involve other people, action research is participatory, often high collaborative and employs both quantitative and qualitative methods. The primary object of research is the researcher. The goal is to evolve a theory of change that is highly sensitive to the factors that operate in a particular context.

The Overall Plan

638A--You will be learning about action research and exploring ideas for action research in your workplace. In doing so, you will work with your "learning circle" partners to help them frame their ideas. Part of your work will be to begin your search for references to help you plan. You will define a "field of action, " and in that field you will look for problems you care about. We will also review ethical issues involved in action research.

Course Objectives for 638a

  1. Become familiar with the key concepts of action research methodology.
  2. Propose an initial outline of your plan for your action research project. This should particularly focus on your topic of interest and information about those from your workplace who will participate with you in this reflection on your practice.
  3. Learn more about the appropriate procedures for involving participants in research, particularly informed consent and guarantees of anonymity in reporting the results of your actions.
  4. Successfully complete the online IRB tutorial to familiarize you with ethical research methodology as it applies to both education and medicine.


Required Reading


McNiff, J. Lomax, P. & Whitehead, J. ( 2006) All you need to know about action research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Collaborative Center for Action Research


Reading Resources

Action Research

The Participatory Action Research Network (listserv)

Network of Action Researchers in Education and Training

Action Research at Queensland University


Ethical Issues

Short article" Action Research and Implications for Ethics in Human Research"

addressed to CSU's Ethics in Human Research Committee


Required Tutorials

IRB Tutorial


University of Minnesota Informed Consent Tutorial: