Action Research

Introduction

To learn about effectiveness of new pedagogical perspectives & practices, like those inherent to STEPWISE, educational researchers often use action research (AR); that is, research that tracks & analyzes efforts (actions) to improve teaching & learning. AR tends to be a cyclical (or spiral) process, in which researchers continually return to various stages – as illustrated at right/below – to increase depth & breadth of pedagogy & research learning. In light of constructivist learning theory, however, people can struggle with AR because of limited access to alternative perspectives. Accordingly, it is apparent that much success can come through collaborative action research (CAR); that is, through negotiated decision-making among diverse ‘stakeholders,’ such as teachers, educational researchers, administrators, parents, students, etc.

Elaboration of this AR schema for science & technology education is available here.

Action Research Foci

Action researchers tend to focus on studying relationships between changes in ‘conditions’ (i.e., independent variables) and ‘outcomes’ (i.e., dependent variables) – such as those illustrated at right/below (and here). In education, a teacher may, for instance, change the number of students in group activities to monitor how that may influence outcomes like students’ abilities to analyze new situations. Other similar examples are provided here. Foci more specific to STEPWISE are given here. Such foci also may arise from analyses of outcomes for elements of the STEPWISE tetrahedral framework, here.

Some STEPWISE-related Action Research Outcomes

Action research can “improve the rationality and justice of [participants’] practices, their understanding of these practices, and the situations in which the practices are carried out” (Carr & Kemmis, 1986, p. 162). Referring to the schema at right/below, CAR can generate ‘Signs’; e.g., knowledge about how the ‘World’ (e.g., teaching & learning) works. It can also improve the ‘World’; e.g., new teaching & learning. STEPWISE has used CAR to address apparent harms linked to pro-capitalist science & technology education, some results of which are described below.

Action researchers may explore inconsistencies (“gaps”) in translations between World & Sign. Ontological gaps, due to differences in composition of World & Sign entities, often are hard to avoid. Ideological gaps (intentional inconsistencies), although difficult to change, often are worth revising.

Students’ RiNA Projects

It is difficult to measure, but students whose teachers have collaborated with us in action research have generated what appear to be very creative and inspired (and inspiring) RiNA projects – such as the one that culminated in the educational video at right/below. This and many more such projects are highlighted at: Sample RiNA Projects. Also, several student RiNA projects are featured in three issues of the journal JASTE: 5.1; 9.1; 11.1; and, in several refereed publications – such as chapters in: Activist Science & Technology Education and STEPWISE.

Besides generating many RiNA projects, it seems – as indicated by the student interviews at right/below – that STEPWISE approaches can lead to long-lasting student understandings & commitments.

Pedagogical Goals & Approaches

STEPWISE-related CAR has generated many pedagogical resources that our research (e.g., as suggested here and in our publications) indicate have worked well. As apparent in the videos at right, approaches have worked with younger, as well as older, school students.

Many perspectives & practices promoted by STEPWISE are not very commonly-used in schools. This is, indeed, a major reason to use action research for STEPWISE implementation; i.e., it requires continuous cycles of reflection, actions, reflections & revisions. Actor-network theory (ANT), while very important for understanding STSE relationships & RiNA projects, often is difficult for some students to understand and use. Teachers working with us have, accordingly, continuously revised their goals & approaches in this regard. In this video, Mirjan Krstovic, who has worked with STEPWISE since 2011, describes his such efforts.

Working with Us in Collaborative Action Research

To work with us in collaborative action research and on publications, contact me at: larry.bencze@utoronto.ca. Also, please help us recruit teachers and others to uses of our resources and/or CAR with us – perhaps using this flyer. We are also interested in working with scholars in Science & Technology Studies to co-develop and study educational applications (like these) – as outlined here.