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     Tutorial 3:  Your Inquiry Question

Tutorial 3: Resources


Is your work in alignment with your values? Does your practice achieve the goals you set for yourself? Examine the distance between your values and your practices, between your practice and your image of perfection. What would have to change to move you and your place of work closer to your visions and values? This is where you begin to see the power of action undertaken as research.

A. Examining Values Vs. Practice & Community

----Jack Whitehead has written extensively about action research and specifically how values can be used to help determine one's research question. He provides the following questions to help think about values: Value Searching Ideas 

---- If you are having trouble thinking about values and specifically your values, use one of the online free assessments of your character and values:
VIA Institute on character Then you can use the results of these questions to think about how your values shape your work. 

-- Lesley Wood, Tulsidas Morar & Linda Mostert have written an insightful paper on action research with an insightful description of the role of values in helping you find your research question. Here is a short passage from their writing to encourage you to read the whole article. 

For example, one of the researchers was concerned about the fact that very few students actually prepared for class, despite being repeatedly reminded of how important pre-reading and preparation were. Instead of formulating the research problem along the lines of 'Why do students not prepare for class?' she asked herself 'How can I adapt my teaching to encourage students to prepare for class?' Action research, therefore, involves taking personal initiative in testing out the practice of ideas for improvement, and as such is an ideal way to contribute to improvement and change in education. By changing and improving our own teaching and learning practices, we are contributing to the process of transformation in our immediate environment.

Questions that we individually and collectively ask ourselves as we engage in the process of transformation include:

• Do I treat every student with the same respect and dignity?

• Do I treat colleagues with respect and dignity?

• Are my classrooms emancipatory?

• What do I do in my teaching to contribute to the myth of student powerlessness?

• How do my values/cultural background benefit/disadvantage my

• Do I acknowledge and encourage diverse opinions?

• Do I provide for educational self-determination?

• Do I take into account student diversity and individual differences?

• Am I providing quality education?

From Wood, Morar, Mostert (2006:69)




B.  Explore Action Research Reports for Ideas








C. Strategies and Tools for Planning Action Research

Planning your action research is a process of envisioning what your workplace would be like if it was in perfect alignment with your values and goals and then thinking about what manageable steps will result in a change in this direction.

One of the problems that action researchers have as they try to plan their action is what is the specific problem and how it relates to problems that others have studied. Here are some examples that might help in the process of planning the project.

Ideas that might help you find the problems that you care about:

  • Communication problems - The message sent is not the same as the message received. Learning to listen and helping others learn to listen is often at the heart of the action research project.

  • Low motivation and engagement - What role does ownership play in the investment of ideas? What are the incentives that shape high engagement in your place of learning or working?

  • Lack of knowledge sharing - How are best practices saved and shared over time? If employee turnover is high, so is the need to find ways to ensure that knowledge stays with the organization.

  • Lack of Intellectual capital - You can't share what you don't have. Look for evidence of good practices from other places. Expand your knowledge by reading, listening, researching, and observing other people who might be engaged in practices that can help you, and the people you work with, learn.

  • Lack of measurement - If you care about something, find a way to measure it as evidence helps you understand change. You will learn from collecting evidence.

  • Distrust or fear of promising new ideas and technologies - What helps someone approach change and how does this interact with tradition or work habits that might have become outdated? Think about the role of trust in change. New tools can solve problems, but they need to be accepted first.

  • Isolated work patterns - When people work alone there is generally a duplication of effect, a lack of resources, and overly routinized patterns that can stall progress. Think about creating community.

  • Shared vision of the future missing - Think about how best practices will lead to a changed or new future. Where are you going as an organization? What does it mean to be a servant leader?

Once the problem is identified, then one needs to design a possible action. Try to locate a small number of problems that are really important to you. If you go for something really general, try to move down a few levels to your sphere of power. If you start with something really focused, try moving out a bit to tie it with problems in the field. Go to research questions for examples of developing research questions.

Action research is a systematic process of examining the outcomes of a design experiment. You need evidence. One form of evidence is careful observations and reflections. Throughout the cycles of your action research, keeping a research journal (a computer blog is helpful) can help you track your thinking which may change over time. You might later to be able to track themes that appear or track shifts in your personal theory of learning and teaching.

D. Using Critical Teaching Questions to suggest areas for Action Research

These questions were modified to relate to a range of setting from a list that was provided by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

  • Reflecting on the goals you have for your teaching--

    • How appropriate are the tasks you are using for developing an understanding of the content being taught?

    • What new tools or techniques could you use to help your students develop their knowledge? (Blogs, flipped classroom, project-based learning, student-driven learning)


  • Reflecting on the classroom discourse that occurs, including the classroom environment that is created:

    • How effectively do you use questioning to help students develop their understanding?

    • What techniques and strategies are used to orchestrate and promote student discourse and how effective are these strategies implemented?

    • Are there alternative questions that could have been asked to further the development of student understanding? What are they?


  • Reflecting on student learning:

    • What strategies were used to assess student understanding?

    • What evidence is there that students have learned the content being taught?


  • Reflecting on the teaching decisions made:

    • What decisions have you made to achieve the goal of reaching all students?

    • How were transitions made and how effective was this done?

    • How effectively are student mistakes and misconceptions dealt with?

    • How effectively does the teacher determine when to clarify, explain, question, or let a student struggle?


  • Reflecting on the content being taught:

    • What are the critical ideas in this lesson and how significant are they?

    • How are contexts, representations, connections, and applications used to enhance the content being taught?


Center for Collaborative Action Research 
Reading Action Research projects will help you develop your understanding of action research. You are looking for what was the overarching goal of this action research. As you read, ask yourself what was the challenge or overall research question.


This question is what prompts the action and helps provide direction through the iterative cycles of change.

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