1.1 Features of practitioner research

Although what constitutes practitioner research can vary enormously, there are a number of key features which differentiate it, and related approaches, from other forms of research.

Related to practice

By definition, practitioner research involves the investigation of individual practice. This could be in the form of an Associate Lecturer researching her/his own tutor group or a central or regional academic researching an element of teaching and learning on a module or programme. The extent to which the research can influence that practice, and therefore students, varies greatly between something that has a great effect on a small number of students and a change in a module which can have a smaller effect on a whole cohort of students.


Practitioner research can be, and often is, undertaken by individuals on their own but there is a tradition in action research that it can involve other groups, particularly those being researched, as part of the process. As such practitioner research could equally involve colleagues and students as co-researchers.

Qualitative rather than quantitative

Practitioner research is generally regarded as small-scale and qualitative in nature. This is often because it is undertaken by individuals into their own practice and so the numbers involved are necessarily small and so perhaps better suited to qualitative approaches. This need not necessarily be the case and practitioner research can involve large groups of students. What is important is that the approach used, whether qualitative or quantitative, is suited to the purpose of the research rather than necessarily the numbers involved.


Practitioner research should involve reflection and indeed the action research cycle specifically focuses on reflection as part of the cycle. Reflection can also occur at a number of levels, so as reflection on practice, where the research findings can influence or change an individual’s way of teaching or how students learn a particular aspect of a module. It can also mean reflection on process, so allowing the practitioner researcher to stand back from the research and identify whether the research already undertaken provides the answers to the questions asked.

Shared with colleagues

Practitioner research can be something you do entirely for yourself. However, just as the process can sometimes be made more interesting and insightful by being collaborative, so sharing the findings with colleagues, and indeed students, can add a different perspective to the research and enable them to learn from the experience as well.


Reporting the outcomes of practioner research is important for two reasons: Firstly, it ensures that the findings of the research are shared with others; secondly, it places a requirement on the practioner researcher to complete the research and also undertake it to a level that it can be shared with others.


As with reporting, by publishing the findings of practitioner research the knowledge gained by the individual researcher can be shared with others. Publication can come in a number of forms: through a brief summary of the research posted on a tutor forum to a peer reviewed article.

Last modified: Tuesday, 4 Mar 2014, 16:02