Tutorial 4: The Inquiry Context
Tutorial 5: Plan for Action
Tutorial 5: Activities
B. Writing - Force Field Analysis -- How will the forces shape your actions?
You create a force field analysis to get a stronger feel for where the assumptions and constraints which might affect the success of your action. Here is where you look more at the context and reflect on how receptive or resistant you expect those in the social setting to be to your proposed actions. The assignment of force in terms of a numerical scale will feel a bit subjective but don't let this worry you. For each force either in the positive or negative column think about how strong the pull is relative to the other things you have listed and give it a force strength (1-10 works as a scale). There are likely to be forces in both directions that you miss. However, this exercise creates a written document of what you thought were important factors as you began the process. As you learn more, you come to see that there were forces on both sides that have unexpected results on your success.
Once you have the total for the forces on both side, you need to compare them. If the forces are overwhelmingly positive, it means that your setting is ready and in fact, you may want to recruit a number of co-researchers to help you in reflecting on the process. If the results come out negative, it does not necessarily mean that you need to return to the drawing board. It does, however, mean that you might have some extra work that involves finding out what others think is the best solution. Action researchers are often so excited about their new idea to solve a problem that they forget that they are not the only ones who own the problem and are not likely to be the only one to design the solution. The ability to listen to and learn from others is a critical part of doing action research. Check resources for some good examples of action researchers who shifted ground a bit to find success in moving forward.
C: Planning - Create an Ethical Plan for Action Research
You need to have an ethical plan. This plan could be a simple as when to schedule a meeting with your principal or supervisor to share the details of your plan, or as complex as applying to a university or district's institutional review board. One of the things to keep in mind as you proceed is the general public's understanding of all research as experimental research. If you call your project action research you should be ready to explain the difference between action research and experimental research. In some cases, it makes sense to carefully describe what you plan to do to improve your skills without calling it research.
One way to avoid misunderstandings is to describe your project as data-driven self-improvement. One goal of action research is to improve your role as a community organizer, teacher, team player, leader, technology support or whatever your position involves. If you focus on this role, and include a discussion of how you will be evaluating the effectiveness of your actions are effective, then your efforts at collecting data can be understood as part of this larger goal. This approach enables you to share your research without eliciting the concerns that are more central to experimental forms of research. The focus needs to center on what type of data you plan to collect and analyze, and how you can assure others that no harm will result from your process. If there are risks, these need to be clearly described, and you will need informed consent from adults and from parents of children younger than 18.
You will need to tell others how any data you collect from them will be used and how you plan to protect their privacy. If you are collecting data that is outside of the practices of your job, you may need to have informed consent. But not all data collection falls in this category. A teacher can evaluate student learning using data, as this data collection process is part of normal classroom activities. It would not make sense to give students the choice to opt out of course evaluation, for example. However, if students are going to be asked to evaluate your teaching, you are likely to need parent permission to collect this data with plans on how to protect identity and privacy.
The research tutorials will be helpful in developing your understanding of why such a process have been established and what happened when there was almost no regulation of research. See Tutorial 5 resources for examples of letters and other tools you might need as you develop your ethical plan. If you are working as a part of a group, they will direct the development of your ethical plan. If you are working alone, feel free to use the discussion forum of this site, or post a question on the facebook group site.
The first task in this tutorial is to create a logic model. The purpose is for you to explore what you think, based on what you know and have read, will happen when you put your plan into action. Basically, you are exploring the problem you have selected, proposing a solution and then exploring the outcomes. Tutorial 5 resources share templates and directions for how to create a logic model by following an example. But feel free to create different formats to display the information. Here I used the graphics tools in powerpoint to create a different layout. You need to have space to add text to each of these boxes so you can layout your model. You are welcome to use the discussion option on this page (top right corner) to link your logic model giving others a chance to see how you worked out your knowledge.