Tutorial 5: Resources
A. Logic Models and Theories of Action
A valuable tool to diagram your theory of action is a logic model, and it is good to have it be a living document. It will help you think through what you need as inputs, what you will do (your action), and what you expect to happen (the outcomes). This planning process will help you think about what will be indicators you can use to see if your logic model matches the experiences you had. Mapping out the theory of action is a great planning process.
1) The University of Wisconsin has designed an interactive and very effective tutorial for learning how to create a logic model. This is an excellent tool to help action researchers think about the problem they are addressing. They also post templates, examples, and resources. In the section of the tutorial focused on the evaluation of your logic model, they suggest you check to see that your logic model is meaningful, plausible, doable, and testable.
2) The W. K. Kellogg Foundation has a range of resources to help one develop a logic model. We include a link here to their guide here.
3) Here is a link to a video description of logic model design by THE EVALUATION CENTER They are assuming evaluative research. Action research might include an evaluation component but remember that action research is not the same as evaluation research. So some of the discussion will be more directed to evaluation than to action research, but it might help generate some ideas on how to document change.
4) The University of Arizona provides help in developing logic models. Visit their site to see a video on why you might want to use a logic model. Their focus is on evaluation research, but this also works for action research. This web-based Logic Model builder provides step-by-step processes to build models, identify common measures, and also build surveys.
5) It is good to have a way for people to discuss their logic models in a group. If you are working online, voice threads is a good technology for having a discussion around an artifact like a logic model. In the Master's Program at Pepperdine University, we had students present and discuss their logic modes. Students would place their logic model in the middle of a voice thread and then record themselves explaining it. Other students would record their comments, and after three students' comments, the professor would add her comments. A circular cursor identifies speaking and how long each person speaks. It demonstrates how you can have an asynchronous audio discussion around an object--in this case logic models-- online.
The sequence was:
a) Students created a logic model which was posted to a slide in voice threads.
b) Students verbally "walked" us through their logic model recording their descriptions.
c) Later, their learning circle partners and professor offered comments and suggestions to the logic model using voice or text.
6) There are many graphic programs and templates for creating logic models including the graphics available in presentation software like powerpoint or Prezi. Here is an example of a draft of a logic model created before doing action research
B. Forces that Support or Challenge your Project
1. Force Field Analysis was a tool that Kurt Lewin suggested in the 1940s to understand the way groups of people change. We continue to use force field analysis in a range of setting to help make decisions about how to move forward on projects. Mind tools describe the process of using a force field analysis to inform business decisions. They have descriptions, a video, and exercises including a worksheet to help you get started.
2. The Overseas Development Institute, the UK's leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues also promotes the use of force field analysis as a management tool.
3. MIT Human Resources has a Force Field tool with consists of three parts: the Instructions, the Worksheet, and the Force Field Map. They suggest that you download and print all three parts before you begin by following the instructions in the first document.
4. Ingie Hovland suggests a group process for completing force field analysis
that might be effective in your situation (see page 22-23).
Here is an example of a force field analysis prepared by Michelle Green
C. Developing an Ethical Plan
Ethical issues surround action research.
When preparing students for action research, it is important that they understand the research culture and the standards of practice for conducting social science research.
Since action research is often focused on learning how to improve your practice, you are the primary object of the research. However, if you are collecting data that steps out of the normal processes of work, you may need to consider getting formal approval. It is always a good idea to share what you are doing with the person or organization that supervises your work. They will help you decide what level of consent or permission you might need. This process is to protect you as much as it is to protect those you work with.
In action research, you are maybe working in a business setting. Kirk Hanson, the Director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University provides a framework for thinking about ethical decision-making at three levels:
If you are engaging in action research as an individual, it is important to be in regular interaction with those you work for and with to make sure that you are working within the ethical framework of your organization.
If you are engaging in action research as a student in a research or educational program, that university will have a review board, often called the Institutional Review Board or IRB which will oversee the work of all people who are associated with the university. There has been a great deal of discussion on how to include action research within a review process that was designed to provide protection for research subjects from risks that might be involved in experimental research.
We include a debate on how action research projects are reviewed through the Institutional Review Board (IRB).
Ethical issues for the social sector--nonprofits, philanthropists, and foundations--arise in operations, leadership, fundraising, and dealing with the public. Ethics Center Assistant Director of Social Sector Ethics Joan Harrington describes how the Center approaches dilemmas including conflicts of interest, leadership failures, and the diversion of assets.
Another reference that might be useful is Chapter 31 in the Palgrave International Handbook of Action Research, 2017 by Foster and Glass. They make the case that the foundational concerns of research ethics--informed consent, confidentiality, and anonymity--are challenged in cases where community partners, practitioners, and partners are both the researchers and the subjects of the researchers. Foster and Glass suggest that we need "a more relational, responsive and critically sensitive ethical practice of knowledge production,"(Foster & Glass, 2017:513). This is particularly true when the university works as co-researchers with practitioners and community and political leaders in what they call equity-oriented collaborative community-based research.
In general, for any research it is important to consider the following:
Confidentiality: The use of real names of people and places should be protected by using fictional names of initials unless otherwise negotiated and agreed upon. Also, it needs to be clear to all who will have access to the evidence you are collecting and what will be done.
Openness: It is important to be as clear and honest in conducting your research. Working with students, you should share your overall inquiry goal-- "I am working on strategies to improve the way I teach reading, and I will want to know if what I try is helping you." or "I am exploring new strategies to engage you in math. " But in general, you should strive to share information, outcomes, tools, and resources, and be ready to listen carefully to what others say about the actions you are taking.
Informed and Engaged: Everyone involved in the research has an equal right to be informed. If an event or decision affects them, they need to know about it and be involved in the process. The social process is very important in action research, and the goal is group transformation.
Voluntary: If you are asking others to provide information that is not routinely done, then you should be clear that they have the right to opt out of the process. But if it is a school activity, then you will not want to make participation voluntary.
Respect for Colleagues: In action research, the research is done with people not on people. You are the subject of your action research, and others are helping you make sense of the actions you put in place. It is important to listen and work fairly with the people who are engaged in the activity system of your action research.
Information and Consent Letters
If your action research involves working with minors and the change you want to make is not a normal part of your work, then parental consent is necessary. If you are working in an area that is clearly part of your job, then an informational letter sent home to parents is sufficient. For example, if you plan to engage students in service learning, you would need to have signed parental consent. If you are exploring the use of a different strategy to exchange or motivate learning in your classroom, you might only need to send an "informational" letter home describing your plans to parents and inviting their observations of learning from home.
Here is a template that Matt Jones, a swim coach, used to create a letter to parents in a project that was recently published by the Center for Collaborative Action Research.
Tutorials that focus on all forms of research including medical research:
1)National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
On this site, you will find a short article on What is Ethics in Research and Why is it Important, by David Resnik. While this article is talking about all forms of research and not action research, it does help you think about ethical issues in general that apply to all forms of research.
2) The Institutional Review Process:
The University of Minnesota provides this short video on the Institutional Review Board process and its role in evaluation research. In action research, it is important to check with your supervisor to see if your action requires any form of review. The issue is that when you are working on improving your practice and implementing teaching strategies, the students are not research subjects, they are students in the classroom. You do not need parental permission to teach students. There is a debate among social science and action researchers as to when it is necessary to have a formal review of action research.
3) The History of the Development of Guidelines for Research with Human Subjects
This video will give a brief history of both the problems and guidelines for working with human subjects. However keep in mind that in action research, research is done with people and not on people. But you should be aware of the history of inappropriate research practices and the ethical procedures that all researchers follow to act ethically. Most of these examples are medical, but ethical practices apply to all research.
Ethics for the Individual Effecting Change
The Ethics of the Organization or Business
Society Ethics that Provide a Framework