action research

이런거 하기 싫단 말이다. 제기랄랄랄랄랄라.

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We followed an action learning/research approach to be critical (and self-critical) by means of collaborative enquiry to:

  • facilitate reflectivity;
  • enhance accountability;
  • be self-evaluating of our practice;
  • engage in participatory problem-solving and continuing professional development; and
  • finally produce an improved formative assessment tool.

WHAT IS ACTION RESEARCH?

Carr and Kemmis (in McNiff, 1997:2) define action research as:

a form of self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of (a) their own social or educational practices, (b) their understanding of these practices, and (c) the situations in which these practices are carried out.

McNiff (1997:4) describes the action research approach as one intended to improve education through change by encouraging teachers/lecturers to be aware of their own practice, to be critical of it, and to be prepared to change that practice. An important concept underpinning action research is that of action learning.

Zuber-Skerritt (1993:45) defines action learning as “learning from concrete experience and critical reflection on that experience, through group discussion, trial and error, discovery and learning from one another.” For action research purposes the process of action learning is taken one step further, as the reflective practitioners who are accountable publicise the results of their experience (Zuber-Skerritt, 1997:47). Action research thus includes action learning, but the aim is not only to learn from one’s own and each other’s work; the aim is also to improve it and to change situations and conditions (Zuber-Skerritt, 1991:81).

Action research as a methodology is based on dialectical epistemology and alternative research paradigms. It is intended not only to yield information, but also to improve action and practice. It does not start with a clear question or hypothesis, as in the case of experimental research, but instead is initiated by vague question that is only gradually clarified and requires a complex answer depending on the people and the situation involved.

One of our strongest motivations for using the action research approach is the fact that it is considered a useful framework in which to develop new strategies and competencies for complex tasks in an uncertain environment of rapid social and technological change (Zuber-Skerritt, 1996:xiii). The challenge to the provider of education and training is to respond to the ever-changing demands of the workplace. The task for language for specific purposes facilitators of learning is to constantly create, evaluate and re-create their product. One of the criteria for designing quality distance education courses in South Africa (SAIDE, 2000:1) is that the course should take cognisance of “the human resource development needs” of learners. As cooperative education practitioners, we need to respond meaningfully to the manifold diverse needs of urban and rural learners and learners in a variety of divisions in the police, ranging from gate guards to forensic specialists. Our learners are members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), Air Force military police, Durban City Police, or the police forces of Botswana and Namibia. A small group are civilians, who hope that the attainment of a policing qualification will ensure employment in the SAPS. The nature of these closed communities calls for continual adaptation and revision of Tutorial Letter 1 which contains the formative assessment activities for the academic year.

Action research was first conceptualised by Lewin (1952) and further developed by Kolb (1984), Carr and Kemmis (1986) and others (Zuber-Skerritt, 1996:xiii). It consists of a spiral of cycles of action and research, and encompasses four major phases, viz. planning, acting, observing and reflecting. These phases entail:

  • the planning phase includes problem analysis and a strategic plan;
  • the acting phase refers to the implementation of the strategic plan;
  • the observing phase includes an evaluation of the action through the use of appropriate methods and techniques; and
  • reflecting entails reflecting on results of the evaluation and on the whole action and research process. This may lead to the identification of a new problem, and the cycle may start again (Zuber-Skerritt, 1996:xiii, xiv).
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