Action research as a tool of evidence-based and data-informed teacher librarians
Update: the results of our action research project have been published by Teacher Magazine and can be accessed here.
Critical participatory action research [CPAR] methodology enables practitioners to improve learning opportunities and pedagogical practices through critical reflection and active participation in the research process (Kemmis, McTaggart & Nixon, 2014). Thus, CPAR can be highly effective for educators as it produces actionable knowledge, and the dual roles of researcher and practitioner can increase the likelihood of the resulting evidence informing practice (Clinton, Aston & Quach, 2018). A strong relationship between education and social change is also a key feature of CPAR and of this research, as increased student equity through learning opportunities contributes to social change (Kemmis, McTaggart & Nixon, 2014).
The critical theory paradigm underpinning CPAR acknowledges that research is constructive, subjective and not value-free; however, the use of both qualitative and quantitative techniques allows triangulation of data, which can enhance the credibility of the findings (Kivunja & Kuyini, 2017). In this sense, research projects should start with identifying a gap in systems and should seek to rectify this by implementing a strategy (Willis, 2007).
I am currently participating in an action research project alongside the Deputy of Teaching and Learning, Head of English, Head of Social Science, and Head of Study Skills entitled ‘Lost in Transition’. We are also working with a contingent of change leaders in the form of the Year 7 core subject teachers.
This action research project identified a gap in the transition stage from Year 6 to Year 7. Students commenced Year 7 with varying degrees of proficiency in academic reading and note-taking skills. This was found to be a significant barrier to the success of some students in their long-term learning and grasp of critical thinking skills. The effects of this included the propensity to plagiarise.
To rectify this gap, the research group implemented an academic reading and note-taking strategy across all Year 7 core classes. We had a high level of interest from staff for a consistent approach and metalanguage therefore, saw the strategy used across all year levels in various subject areas. Results have been collected through pre- and post-testing, interviews, observations, and surveys. Data analysis will be completed in early 2021. The analysis of data will inform the approach all staff take with academic reading and note-taking instruction and will inform further pedagogical changes and library and literacy support programs. Being involved in a collaborative research group positions the library as an essential element in driving change and improvement at the school.
Through a critical theory approach, research stemming from the library can identify mechanisms that enhance student equity and personal growth; thus, building students’ capacity to actively engage in the 21st century.
Clinton, J.M., Aston, R., & Quach, J. (2018). Promoting evidence uptake in schools: A review of the key features of research and evidence institutions [Report]. http://doi.org/10.4225/49/5aa61c6c75a9e
Kemmis S., McTaggart R., & Nixon R. (2014). The Action Research Planner. Springer. https://doi-org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/10.1007/978-981-4560-67-2_1
Kivunja, C., & Kuyini, A. B. (2017). Understanding and applying research paradigms in educational contexts. International Journal of Higher Education, 6(5), 26-41. https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v6n5p26
Willis, J. W. (2007). Foundations of qualitative research: Interpretive and critical approaches. SAGE Publications, Inc. doi:10.4135/9781452230108