As you read numerous studies and articles / chapters about action research, several issues will have emerged. What are the implications and considerations that appear worthy of further consideration in the context of your work or prac experience? What questions have arisen for which you would like to seek answers? Using the framework for action research in McNaughton & Hughes (2008), based on your experience of an early childhood setting (your workplace or prac site), identify an issue that could be addressed using action research. You will then form a specific action research question.
In Part A of this assignment you will conduct a literature search on the topic and write a literature review. This must include a minimum of five empirical articles (research articles that actually present data – review module one). In Part B of the assignment you will design an action research project to address your research question. You will write a research proposal which will include sections on methodology, ethical considerations, and data analysis.
Note: This assessment will be focused on action research for professional change, including 2 phases of the action research cycle on page 2 of the MacNaughton and Hughes (2008) text. You will also be required to plan how you could implement phase 3 (steps 9 – 14) but will not actually be collecting data.
Choosing your topic (Phase 1):
The topic you choose should be based around your own experience, and if possible be relevant to your current / recent place of employment or one of your professional experience placements. You are to focus on professional change and you should think in terms of a small action research project with attainable goals. Think of changes (actions) you could make at your place of employment or at a school or early childhood centre that you have been on placement, based upon current research. A small scale, well-planned project is preferable to something more ambitious that is not realistic in its aims.
Here are a few examples of possible topics/questions for action research projects (Phase 1, step 2):
- the impact of a natural and aesthetic environment on children’s behaviour (e.g., Does adding more natural lighting, flowers and plants to the classroom make a difference to children’s behaviour?)
- the impact of involving children in constructing a classroom code of conduct (e.g., Does pro-social behaviour increase when children are involved in coming up with the classroom rules?)
- the impact of encouraging children to engage in meaningful discussions and revisit their ideas (How do I engage children in meaningful discussion about their ideas to deepen their engagement in curriculum?)
- the nature of teacher-child interactions and relationships? (e.g., How can I engage in more sensitive interactions with children to support secure teacher child relationships?)
- the nature of everyday transitions in early childhood settings? (e.g., How can I help children manage transition times such as arrivals, departures, going to sleep, waking up from sleep?)
- untiming the curriculum – the impact of making decisions about aspects of the daily schedule based on children’s activity (e.g., Does the quality of children’s play increase if we allow more flexibility in the classroom routine?)
- the impact of involving children in planning the physical environment (How do we rethink children’s participation in planning the physical environment to better engage children in the curriculum?)
- cultural or gender bias in the classroom– is it evident? Can it be reduced? (How do we re-examine our practices regarding gender to decrease gender bias in our classroom?)
- how can communication with families be enhanced? (How can we rethink our communication strategies to develop stronger teacher-family partnerships?)
Part A: Structure of the literature review (Phase 2, step 4):
The structure of the literature review should follow a similar format to the literature reviews we have read for the subject, or to those in other empirical articles that you have found. This section should review the empirical literature of your topic, concluding with an analysis of the gaps, tensions and/or problems in the current research to date. You will need to include the following points:
- Identify your proposed topic (Phase 1, step 1)
- Articulate why this topic is significant to your professional practice (make connections to your current employment in an EC setting or past experiences in EC settings)
- Outline the theoretical/historical/social/educational context of your topic as described through your review of the literature.
- What types of research have been conducted on this topic and what is known about the topic?
- What data gathering tools have been used in previous research (e.g. surveys, interviews, case studies, document analysis)?
- Critically discuss what previous research says about this topic.
- Are there any gaps? Tensions? Problems? General themes? Here you need to critique not just research findings but also research methodologies.
- Finish with some general comments about the research currently employed in your chosen topic and what this means for you as an early childhood educator, and how it will inform your proposed action research project. For example, Will you replicate or apply a strategy or methodology to your action research design? Will you employ a different methodology to address a challenge from the previous literature?
Part B: Structure of the action research proposal
Based on the findings from your literature review and your own personal interest in the topic, specify an action research question that could be explored in an action research project. Then, write a proposal for an action research project that could allow you to answer the action research question (Phase 2 & 3). Note, you will NOT be implementing your research proposal.
Your proposal should address the following questions:
- What is your action research question(s)? (Phase 1, step 2)
- What are the benefits of your study (to the researcher, participants, community)?
- What paradigm will frame the study? – Will you use qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods approaches?
- How will you collect data? (for example, on-line surveys, interviews, artefacts, observations, etc. include a timeline and specific interview/survey questions, or any other measures you would use within your appendices).
- When will you collect data? (remember to collect data before and after your change; steps 6 – 11)
- From whom will you collect data? (teachers, children, parents, director?)
- How will you recruit participants and gain consent? What information will you include on the consent form?
- What are the ethical implications of this research and how will you address them? (Phase 2, step 5)
- How will you analyse and interpret your data? (Phase 3, step 12)
- For example, will you look for reoccurring themes? Will you use descriptive statistics, such as the mean and range? Look at pages 171-191 in your Mac Naughton and Hughes (2008) text for ideas.
- How could you use your findings to inform your practice?
- Critically analyse the strengths and potential weaknesses of your proposed study and methodologies you would use. (Review step 8 & Modules 3 & 4)
This assessment will give you the opportunity to generate knowledge in a systematic way by completing a small situation-based action research project. You will have the opportunity to demonstrate the following learning objectives for this subject:
- identify and discuss the ethical issues involved in research in early childhood education;
- describe and comment upon current research in early childhood education;
- recognise the importance of research informing educators’ practice and children’s services policy and practice;
- frame appropriate questions for the purpose of investigating or addressing problems or issues in relation to or in support of your work early childhood education.
- Quality of the Literature Review (15 marks)
In order to pass criterion 1, you must clearly identify the topic and focus of the literature review, clearly present an analysis, critique, and examination of the prior, high quality literature that accurately describes empirical research terms and concepts with sufficient depth and breadth of analysis. You must also clearly identify any gaps, tensions, problems or general themes that emerge from the prior literature and articulate how the literature can inform your practice as an early childhood educator and/or your action research proposal. Responses that do not meet these standards and/or do not review a minimum of five studies will fail this criterion.
- Quality of the Action Research Proposal (20 marks)
In order to pass criterion 2, you must show an understanding of the components of an action research project, including: a clear statement of the area of research interest and inquiry; identification of the specific question(s) to be addressed in your research, and detailed methods for how you would conducting the research – the potential sample to be recruited and the procedures to be used for gathering data and interpreting data, before and after a change to your practice. You must also demonstrate an understanding of ethical requirements for conducting research with human participants. The proposed methods must also be realistic in terms of the time commitment required by yourself as research and the participants, and the appropriateness of any proposed survey questionnaires or interview questions. Your proposed research study must be manageable by you in your everyday role as an educator. Finally, you must clearly articulate how your proposed study reflects action research for professional change. Responses that do not meet these standards will fail this criterion.
- Critical Reflection (10 marks)
In order to pass criterion 3, you must provide evidence of critical reflection about research issues and concepts, prior research on your topic, and the strengths and weaknesses of your proposed research project and methodologies. Reflection should be critical in nature, going beyond simply describing the content of the article. Responses that only include a ‘surface-level’ description of prior research and your proposed study will fail this criterion.
- Grammar and referencing (5 marks)
To pass criterion 4, you must present citation and referencing in accordance with the University’s standard approach, and include a minimum of five references beyond class notes. Failure for this criterion will occur where students depart from the guidelines, implement the guidelines in a haphazard fashion, or include fewer than five empirical references beyond the class notes. Additionally, appropriate English should be used and writing should be coherent and free of grammatical and spelling mistakes. Responses that contain multiple grammatical errors and are poorly organised will fail this criterion
Assessments must be 12 point font, one and a half line spacing. Assessments should include a title, and numbered pages.