Author : E. Alana James, Margaret T. Milenkiewicz, Alan Bucknam
Year of publication: 2008
Publisher : Sage Publications
Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a useful tool for educators, whether working alone or in groups, to develop efficient methods in the effort of improving classroom teaching and learning. They are a few reasons why educators should carry out PAR. Among all, PAR practitioners can develop their professional capacity through critical reflection. Local expertise can be developed and the practitioners are more motivated about their work by carrying out PAR studies.
PAR research group (project team) is a group of people in different roles who are willing to work together in a collaborative environment without hierarchy. Educational issue is selected and studied by these participatory groups. Sometimes, the participatory groups may need the involvement of students, their families or other parties. A few steps used in PAR process: Diagnose, Act, Measure and Reflect.
(i) Diagnose: PAR team identified the topic to be studied, doing theory and literally research regarding what others have done in the similar situations.
(ii) Act: Based on the research done during Diagnose stage, PAR team plans possible action and ways to measure the topic identified, in order to increase level of effectiveness.
(iii) Measure: PAR team implements action planned to achieve student-level outcomes, and this followed by measurement of how their actions affected the populations they are studying.
(iv) Reflect: PAR team reflects their process, actions and outcomes individually and then as a group. During the reflection, they also brainstorm alternatives situations and plan for additional actions for improvement.
In short, the logical model of PAR involved the basic process, including identifying problem for research purpose, literature review, establishment of theoretical and practical understanding of the particular issue, data collection and analysis and finally results reporting.
After completed one cycle of PAR steps, PAR team starts the same series of steps again and this creates a cyclical motion of increasing knowledge and understanding, then implementing change based on their data findings.
Procedures involved in planning PAR first draft of logical model are as below:
Step 1: Build a five-column, three-row table. Each column is given a heading with the arrangement followed as per below:
Questions to be addressed, Previous studies, Variables elements to be measured, Local measurements and Form of analysis.
As many columns are to be filled as possible.
Step 2: Add in two more research questions that are closely aligned to the favorite example of a purpose statement in the first column of each of the two blank rows.
Step 3: Insert as many types of research methods or data collection methods that make sense to the consideration on how to measure experiences which can help in answering the selected research question.
Step 4: Time Line and Personal Responsible may be added into the table (in additional two more columns) which can help in establishing due dates for individual team member accountability of the divided work asks.
Step 5: Share the first draft of logical model with other PAR participants. Discuss similarities, differences or questions that may occurred.
Some ethical considerations that form the foundation on the designation on each PAR cycle including obtain informed consent, do no harm, respect confidentiality, develop knowledge, hold to validity, credibility and reliability as standards, act to the benefit of others, report results honestly.
PAR requires both qualitative and quantitative data collection. Qualitative data collection methods involve data collected directly in words from people (interviewing individuals or groups selected as participatory samples), data collected once or throughout a process of change (handwritten or verbal account of evens over time through reflective journals or field notes (by observation on events)) and data collected during the event(s) being studied (using anecdotal evidence and logs or observations). Qualitative data collection is subject to biases of the samples involved both in collecting the evidence and in providing it. Qualitative data analysis requires sorting and re-sorting data until theoretical understandings emerged. PAR teams starts with reviewing the evidences being collected followed by determining the validity, credibility and reliability of the analysis. PAR teams achieve these objectives by having discussion on whether and to what extend the conclusions made match the evidence, and also challenging whether and to what extend evidence collected is adequate.
As for Quantitative a collection, the methods involved are observations, surveys or questionnaires, samples selection and time series. After the quantitative data has been sufficiently collected, PAR teams are to analyze the data using descriptive analysis (mean, percentage of frequencies and standard deviation). Besides, t-test and correlation can be utilized in testing whether and to what extent certain results correlate with other characteristics.
All the data analysis has to meet the validity, credibility and reliability. Validity means the degree to which data and results are accurate reflections of reality. Credibility is the degree to which the person reading the report thinks the conclusions make sense. Whereas reliability means the consistency of the research findings in general.
At the end of each PAR cycle, PAR teams will take time to review the preliminary analysis to ensure on their increased understanding resulting from the cycle. Thereafter, they will make the final report on the whole process of the cycle of PAR. They may present their writing in the form of formal report, informal individual report or even community report.
As overall evaluation towards this guidebook, I found it to be a useful guide for us as the beginners in the field of action research, seeking clearer concepts regarding action research, trying to understand those process and steps involved in action research. It does contain some relevant examples in implementation of action research in teaching and learning improvement. Besides, this book displayed reflective questions after each topic of discussion. This provides the readers (research action practitioners) a platform to review their steps taken from time to time during the implementation of action research, to ensure that they are always be in the correct track..