2.3 Changing practice

In this simplified view of the action research cycle the assumption here is that you may want to change practice in some way. However, you may still be some way off discovering exactly what the issue you are trying to address is. In this case it is best to go through another iteration of the first cycle to further explore your original question before embarking on making any changes or alterations.

If you do discover that you need to alter your own practice or make some changes to how students are taught or assessed, the following should provide you with some guidance on how to use the action research cycle to change practice.

What is your concern/question?

In deciding on a question or concern for the second phase of the research cycle you need to reflect on how the issue you identified in the first cycle has changed in the light of the findings of that cycle. So, it could be that you have the same over-arching question or you decide to focus on a particular area.

Plan

In this phase you should decide what it is you wish to change or do which might address the issue you raised in the first cycle.

Obviously the extent to which you are able to make changes depends very much on your role. As a tutor you might be able to change your own practice and how you support students but you can do little about the module itself unless you are able to work with a module team. If you involved in a module then you have much more scope to make changes although even here you need to consider what falls within your responsibility in terms of teaching and student support and what may be the role of tutors.

In all cases, there is little point making numerous changes to practice, either at an invidual or module level. Such wholesale change is likely to cause confusion or even resentment at student and AL level and there is very little hope of being able to evaluate the effect of one of many changes.

Instead it is best to identify one change in practice that you think you are going to be able to isolate as far as possible from other changes. This will then make the effect of that change easier to evaluate.

You also need to consider at this stage who will be on the receiving end of the change in practice. Is it all students in a particular group or cohort or just some? Obviously this depends on the question you wish to address and the nature of the change. You also need to ensure that no student is penalised by not being involved in the change, either because they are not part of the particular cohort or because they choose not to participate.

Act

This is the part where the change takes place. Examples of change could be an alteration to how feedback is provided to students by the individual tutor or a pilot of the use of Elluminate in a particular subject area or for a particular purpose. The possibilities are endless.

It is important, however, that the purpose and form of any change is firmly linked to the original question or issue you set out to address and to the findings of the first stage of the action research cycle.

Observe

As in the frst cycle of action research, the observation phase is very much about looking at what is happening. As such it forms part of the overall evaluation of the research project and it is therefore important that any observations are recorded and commented on. These could be notes, perhaps in the form of a research diary, on what is happening within a learning context or your own views as a teacher.

The importance of doing this at this stage is that evaluation becomes part of the overall project rather than an add on. It can also inform a more formal evaluation in terms of the questions asked and the people approached to take part.

Reflect

As with observation, reflection forms part of the overall evaluation of the project and it is important to consider at this stage both how the change is working and the methods you might use to formally evaluate it.

Last modified: Tuesday, 4 Mar 2014, 16:10