The Expansive Education Network (eedNET) and action research
Action research is at the heart of what eedNET does. eedNET partner universities offer support and guidance to eedNET member schools, ensuring that teachers can plan simple, short but meaningful enquiries, capable of being undertaken in a school term.
The eedNET member area provides a unique library of reports, films and resources uploaded by eedNET members. All members have a profile in which they describe their interests. And eedNET is a professional learning community united around the premise that the job of educators is to expand young people’s minds so that they acquire the dispositions necessary to equip them for a lifetime of successful learning.
Because the focus of eedNET members’ work is on expansive education their enquiries are framed around questions like:
‘If I encourage my pupils to develop growth mindsets will their resilience improve?’
‘If I stop answering my pupils’ questions will they become more resourceful?’
‘How can I encourage my students to bring the imagination they use in drama into history?
‘Does encouraging Year 12 students to visualise chemical reactions, help them understand the concepts?’
‘If I coach my pupils in adopting different perspectives in history, will that transfer to the playground?’
‘Does extended project work develop reflectiveness in Year 8 design and technology students?’
‘If I encourage pupils actively to monitor their levels of concentration will their absorption improve?’
‘Can young footballers learn to design and manage their own training?’
‘If year 5 children mentor young pupils in literacy, does this improve the older children’s reading?’
‘Can I design small group work to strengthen year 4 students’ ability to give and receive feedback?’
What is action research?
The invention of action research is generally attributed to social scientist Kurt Lewin in the 1940s. Lewin believed that careful, collaborative enquiry by practitioners was the best way of informing them as to how they might improve their practices: ‘Action Research is a three-step spiral process of planning which involves reconnaissance or fact-finding; taking actions; and fact-finding about the results of the action.’ (1)
Action research also owes much to the tradition of reflective practice developed by Donald Schön in the 1980s. It was also much influenced by the work of Lawrence Stenhouse (2) promoting the idea of teachers as researchers (3).
Action research now
Today action research in schools, sometimes referred to as ‘teacher enquiry’, is growing in popularity. It is increasingly seen as a systematic way of, among other things:
· improving teaching and learning
· providing opportunities for professional development
· acting as a catalyst for collaboration as part of a professional learning community
· offering a focus for partnership between universities and schools/colleges
· dealing with and initiating change, and
· managing sustainable school improvement.
That it is becoming more widely respected is evidenced by the existence of high quality peer-reviewed journals, for example Educational Action Research. The American Educational Research Association, for example, has recently created a special interest group devoted to action research. The existence of a considerable number of practical guides written by respected academics and experienced practitioners is further testimony to the popularity of action research with teachers.
What’s special about action research in schools?
In traditional educational research the researcher often stands outside the activity observing it. But with action research, the teacher/researcher is directly involved, deliberately trying something new (the “action”) and noticing what happens (the “research”.) Because the goal of action research is systematic improvement, the action researcher also needs to tell the story of what happens so others can learn from it by producing a report. In an electronic age, as well as traditional reports, it is easy to create blogs, upload films and orchestrate online dialogue to explore the fruits of teachers’ endeavours.
Case Study: In 2010-11, Ealing Council identified 'lead research practitioners' from schools across the local authority. These teachers used enquiry-based practice to pioneer new innovative approaches to challenges they have identified in their own classrooms. Read more..