Step 2: Planning your action research project
Writing an action research plan
Having chosen the “action” for your action research project, it’s now time to think about the research side. This doesn’t have to be onerous, but is crucial to understanding whether or not your intervention worked, and more importantly why.
“Measuring the impact of the change is a vital step
that is often missed out. Completing this project has
reinforced the need for the use of data to ensure that
a measurable impact can be demonstrated for several
reasons, including ensuring this is the best practice.”
A simple action research planning template is included in the toolkit that accompanies this guide (see section 10). The plan might seem like extra work, but it will help give your intervention the best chance of success.
It has several sections:
- Your intervention
- Your research questions
- Indicators of success
- Research methods
- Reflecting on and sharing practice
If you’ve followed the guidance above you have already done some work on deciding which intervention is most appropriate, so we’ll skip straight to the research
questions in step 2 of the plan.
Setting research questions
The most important part of your plan is your research questions. These are the two or three questions that you will use to guide your project and set out what evidence is needed to measure whether your intervention made a difference or not. Think of these as the questions you would ask a colleague if he or she had tried out the intervention on their class and you wanted to know if it worked.
Example research questions for teachers to try out a wide range of different interventions are shown below.
Teachers’ research questions for different interventions
- Will knowledge of wider applications of physics in “real life” affect choices made by girls for post-secondary courses?
- Can changing my approach improve motivation, understanding and attainment?
- Are girls more likely to contribute ideas in lessons without the expectation that they should use technical terms?
- Does the type of starter to a lesson make physics more relevant to girls? What do female pupils view as relevant illustrations and applications of physics?
- Does encouraging independent work empower the girls to “own” the topic and so become more engaged?
- How will my intervention create an environment where girls will be willing to learn physics and participate in lessons more?
- What are the reasons why girls do not choose physics at our school?
- What careers need physics or find physics useful? Does knowing this change attitudes (student and staff)?
- Does knowing this help staff make the subject more relevant in lessons?
- How can I use the peer influence of popular girls (and boys) to champion physics for girls?
- How can you improve the confidence/competence of non-specialist teachers of physics? What effect does it have on the pupils?
Indicators of success
In order to answer the research questions it is necessary to have an idea about what success would look like so that you are able to measure it. Indicators are a way of identifying changes that might occur as a result of interventions. Thinking about them before the intervention takes place will help you anticipate the changes so as to measure them more effectively. However, be aware that some other changes may occur that you might not anticipate, which are also important to look out for. Use this list as a starting point but feel free to add to it. The indicators are split according to who or what will experience the change to be measured. The three groups initially identified are learners themselves, teachers and the department or school. For learners and teachers, each indicator focuses on awareness or knowledge cognitive), attitudes and feelings(affective) or behaviour.
Qualitative or quantitative?
Some teachers find that collecting qualitative rather than quantitative feedback from
students is more useful in this type of action research project. One example is with student
questionnaires. Prior to writing a plan, teachers could be asked to survey their classes using a short open questionnaire.
How to design a good questionnaire
How to run an effective focus group with students