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Action Research and Action Planning

Action Research and Action Planning


In this lesson, students analyze the similarities and differences between action research and action planning.

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Hello, and welcome. In this lesson we'll look at action research and action planning, and analyze the similarities and differences between the two. There's a lot to get to, so let's get started. I am sure, like me, you have had some pretty awful experiences with customer service. However, I would like to share a positive one I recently had.

A weeks ago, I had a fairly new laptop just stop working. I knew it was under a 1-year warranty, but couldn't remember when I had purchased it. Anyway, days turned into weeks before I finally got around to calling to inquire about it. The person on the other end of the line couldn't have been nicer, but that's not my reason for sharing this story.

He took his time and asked a series of questions in order to identify and understand the problem. As it turns out, by the time I made the call, the warranty had already expired, so we have to consult with the supervisor to find out what the options were. When he came back on the line, he had a plan of action. He wanted me to follow it so that I could get the problem resolved. A few days later, I even received an email following up my experience and asking for feedback. Think about this story at the end of the lesson and you'll be able to identify many action steps that were taken in this scenario.

Let's begin by defining action research. What is it? Action research is the focus on a problem of practice by individuals working in the field. For the purposes of this course, those individuals are educators, particularly those that are members of site-based management teams or professional learning communities. The questions they ask and the research they choose to conduct is aimed at improving teaching, learning, and in some cases, the school environment.

Research from the Association of School Curriculum Directors and other organizations have found that when an organization takes the necessary steps to engage in action research, teachers feel more empowered and confident. This is significant because it also leads to improvements of instructional practices and student achievement. It stands to reason that if you feel like you can make a difference and are invested in the process, your best work will shine through.

As a result, action research continues to grow in popularity, and acts as a strong inquiry tool to use in professional learning communities. Action research is the perfect fit for site-based teams looking to continually improve. Now let's take a walk through the steps of action research. First, identify the problem that needs attention. Members of the team ask what areas of their instructional practice do they want to focus on and why.

Next, identify existing research that can help to guide inquiry. Doing this will help focus your team on the most effective strategies in addressing the problem that they identified. Step three, create research questions. Step four, through data collection, establish a baseline and check to be sure that your question is relevant. Step five, analyze that data to determine and/or clarify the current situation you are in, and also to develop a deeper understanding of the problem. Step six, ask questions that will guide your discussion about the baseline data.

Next, looking at data can times lead to surprising discoveries. It's not easy, but teams need to be open and willing to refine their goals as a result. Eight, create a set of action steps and remember to establish a timeline, including opportunities to review and measure progress. Step nine is implementing those action steps. Step 10, review student progress data as a team, and as always, you want to ensure that all voices are being heard. Next, if the action steps are working, great. Keep at it. If not, you need to revise them. And lastly, reflect individually and as a team. Again, you will hear specific examples of questions for reflection shortly.

In this case, the problem was a significant gap among the growth rate of students who were below the standard versus those exceeding the standard. The students who were the highest level were showing the least amount of growth. Next, we'd identify the theories and research that already exists that can guide inquiry. An example would be to look at research related to gifted and talented programs.

Step three, we'd narrowed the problem into one research question, and the question would be why are our highest achievers showing the least amount of growth? Next we'd collect valid and reliable data, and this would look like screeners, benchmarks, district and state assessments. Step five, we'd analyze the data to determine the current reality and develop a deeper understanding of the problem. It's important to have as many eyes on this step as you can.

Step six, as a team, review and discuss the baseline data and ask the following questions. Is the data consistent amongst all teachers? Are there any noticeable trends? Are there team members whose students show strengths in areas of general weakness? Does the data explain why? Can the team members benefit from learning from each other, and if so, how? Is professional development needed?

Next, based upon the data, we'd see if we'd want to refine our goal or not. For example, students who are at or above the 95th percentile in math will show a growth rate of 25%. And action step we might want to take would be to increase service time for the highest achievers and utilize virtual learning platforms. To do this, we may have to add identified students to math specialist caseloads and subscribe to online courses.

Next, the plan would be to meet in approximately 6 weeks. Next, we would decide to continue if the action steps were working, revise the action steps if they were not as individuals report out the results and the decision to continue, terminate, or revise would be made as a team. And finally, we'd reflect individually and as a team using them following questions.

Why did or didn't this plan work? How did this plan improve teaching and learning? Did we learn anything from this plan that can inform action plans in other areas of instruction? And finally, how did the students feel about the action plan?

You will often hear the terms action planning and action research used interchangeably. They certainly have similarities, but they have very specific differences, as well. Action research is the broader process outlined in the steps that we just covered in previous slides. Action planning is embedded in and is a component of action research. Action planning includes the following actions, many of which are also considered during action research.

For example, in both instances you'll want to outline the steps needed to address an identified problem. The team develops the plan, including the goal, the specific actions to be taken, the timeline, the method of measurement, the students involved, and the individuals responsible. Communicating the plan to the stakeholders is also found in both. In a smaller setting like a single classroom, or even for an individual student, action planning around a specific problem or need makes sense, and one tool to use when doing this is the plan-do-study-act protocol.

Plan what goals need to be met, who will be involved, the resources necessary, and how successful we measured. Do is the step in which the plan is carried out and data that is collected. Study what are the measurable results of those actions telling me? And act-- should I continue with the actions? Has the student achieved the goal, or do I need to adjust the actions?

For instance, in the example I used, a group of four teachers may get together and plan that they want to challenge their high achievers, do some sort of rotations of students amongst their classrooms, and give a pre- and post-test, study those results, and act by revising the action if necessary. If the goals have been met, it is cause for celebration.

In both cases, large cycle of action research or smaller cycle of action planning best practice is to establish SMART goals. In any situation, it is helpful if the goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. In some instances, an action plan exists without action research, but action research never exists without action planning.

That was certainly a lot to cover, so let's take a moment to summarize. We began by defining action research, and then we went through the steps. We played a scenario where action research would make sense. And then we looked at action planning. Here's today's food for thought. Start small. Identify a problem and try conducting your own plan-do-study-act procedure. You may want to invite a colleague to join you because two heads are always better than one. Good luck.

Now it's your turn to apply what you've learned in this video. The additional resources section will be super helpful. This section is designed to help you discover useful ways to apply what you've learned here. Each link includes a brief description so you can easily target the resources that you want. Thanks for watching. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "Action Research and Action Planning"

(00:00-00:12) Intro

(00:13-01:13) Customer Service

(01:14-02:22) Definition of Action Research

(02:23-03:55) Action Research Steps

(03:56-04:54) Sample of Action Research

(04:55-05:15) Action Research Questions

(05:16-06:02) Sample Continued

(06:03-06:17) Reflective Questions

(06:18-07:17) Comparison

(07:18-08:24) PDSA

(08:25-09:19) Summary/Food For Thought

Additional Resources

Action Research in Education: Methods, Examples & Quiz offers a lesson with videos on action research in the classroom. This is a useful resource for illustrating what action research looks like in application.

What Is Action Research?

ASCD offers the first chapter in the text Guiding School Improvement with Action Research
by Richard Sagor. This text offers excellent planning tools that can be used in PLCs and workshops to develop action research questions and engage in the process of action research.

Montgomery County Public Schools: Quality Tools for the Classroom

Montgomery County Public Schools has published sample action plans for use in classrooms following the Baldrige Model. Click on, scroll through, and download these tools to support the development of action plans in your classroom or with your PLC.

Deployment Guide for School Improvement Teams

The Cedar Rapids Community School provides a step-by-step guide to walk you through the stages of action research. Although they have bundled together some of the 12 steps noted in the above tutorial, the process is essentially the same. The template is useful to guide research planning, monitoring, and review.