Tutorial 10: Cycles of Change

Tutorial 10: Activities



A. How do you know what a Cycle of Action Research is and when one ends?

Determining the beginning and end of cycles is not always easy. In the beginning, you can plan cycles but they often turn out different than planned. If you find you engage in a similar activity over time, challenge yourself to find a better way each time you cycle through the process. Think of the repetition as opportunities for innovation. One way to recognize the formation of a new cycle is when you have a sense that something didn't work out just as you expected and you find yourself saying...I wonder what would happen if I...?

Here is a place for you to share your experiences in making decisions about cycles. Feel free to share the difference from what you planned in the beginning and what triggers your decision to start a new cycle. This might help others who are struggling with trying to figure out what it means to revisit an idea and experiment with it. You can use the discussion on this page to share your experience. 


B. Planning your Next Cycles of Action Research

You have completed your first cycle. During the reflective process, you should have evolved some ideas for how to move forward with what you have learned. Frequently action researchers do one of the following to move to cycle 2.

  1. Working with the same group of people, they modify the action in a way that:

    1. was suggested by participant(s)

    2. solves a problem that evolved from the data analysis

    3. fit an idea that evolved out of the cycle 1 reflection 

  2. Working with a similar action, they shift to a different group of people, for example,

    1. Teaching a class again to a new group of students

    2. Organizing a workshop around a topic

  3. Shifting levels they help another group of people experiment with the action that they took, for example

    1. A teacher who evolves new classroom strategy, might have the next cycle involve working with the grade level team

    2. An employee that evolves a new way to manage the work team might share the success with other team managers

    3. Hospital technology support could shift from helping nurses learn to make a video to helping nurses set up

  4. Changing the technology that supports the action

    1. Using new technology to do what has been done before

    2. Changing what has been done because of the new "affordances" of technology

    3. Distribute learning or cognition across distances by using communication tools

    4. Incorporating social or cognitive networking

Decide which of these, or other approaches, are right for you and proceed through cycle two and three to get the feeling for how one cycle leads to another. Generally, after the first cycle you reflect on changes, after the second cycle you share what you have locally and after three cycles you are ready to share your newly forming knowledge with a new audience. After each Cycle, write up your report in the same way that was listed for cycle 1. If you do this, you will soon be ready to share your finding with an action research audience. More advice on how to do this in the next cycle.

Cycles turned into spirals of change...





















Kurt Lewin’s Spiral Model, Action Research Cycle.
Image  from:

Palermo, J., Marr, D, and Oriel, J. (2012) Tracking Student Success: Using an Action Learning Approach to Better Understand the How, What, Where and Why.
AAIR Journal Volume 17, No. 1