CfEM blog: Action Research

Blog by Eddie Playfair, Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC), for the Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) programme.

Our latest Forum was held at Plymouth College on 28 November where we were joined by Claire Collins, OTLA English programme lead for the ETF, and Dr Catherine McParland who shared their experiences of running action research (AR) projects in the post-16 sector, warts and all, and offered some practical suggestions to support AR projects. Claire and Catherine focussed on how project leaders can:

  • Enable teams to develop their research ideas throughout the project cycles in the knowledge that the ‘action’ in action research will always generate new avenues for exploration;
  • Make sense of the data they gather and understand how data differs from evidence;
  • Help their teams keep on track and continue to feel enthusiastic about their work;
  • Share tools that help learners, teachers, support workers and the many others participating in the projects, to speak openly about their experiences;
  • Support teams to write about their journeys and findings, starting immediately, not waiting until the end of the project cycle;
  • Share techniques that can be used as part of the AR process, such as guided discussions with learners, which can also help to generate the project’s written outcomes.

Claire and Catherine emphasised ‘trustworthy triangulation’; in terms of the different stages of research (before, during and after teaching and learning sessions) and in terms of the people participating (e.g. teachers, their peers and their learners). They reminded us that action research is ‘systematic enquiry made public’ (Stenhouse, 1983) highlighting the importance of sharing our knowledge widely within the sector, so that voices from the ground shape our shared understanding of what works, where and why.

Claire and Catherine drew on their current and previous work, the findings of which can be seen in some of the following AR summaries:

Further information on the Centres for Excellence in Maths programme can be found on the CfEM webpages.