Why is research a cyclical process

Action research. History of development, application examples and tools


1 definition

2 History of origin

3 Objective

4 procedure

5 concepts

6 application examples
6.1 Example 1: Action research as an individual initiative of a teacher [17]
6.2 Example 2: Japanese shipbuilding industry [18]
6.3 Example 3: Differentiation in the classroom [19]

7 tools
7.1 Diary
7.2 observation
7.3 Exchange of views
7.4 survey

8 criticism

9 individual proofs

1 definition

There is no generally applicable definition 1.

The term can be interpreted in two different ways.

On the one hand, there is the interpretation that describes action research as research in the form of a collection of actions and methods, like that of French and Bell 2 was defined (“The process of systematically collecting empirical data about a system with regard to its goals and needs; from the feedback of this data to the system and based on additional hypotheses, actions to change individual system variables are developed, and the results of these actions are checked by renewed data collection and evaluated. ", [2]).

On the other hand, the term action research can also be interpreted as active research that shapes its environment, as French and Bell did in 1973: "Applying the scientific determination of facts and scientific experimentation to practical problems [...]", with the aim to develop solution measures under "[...] cooperation and participation of scientists, practitioners and laypeople [...]" [2].

"The fundamental starting point of an investigation carried out in the sense of action research is an acute problem that occurs in practice with the aim of answering socially relevant questions." 3 That is why action research is mainly used in pedagogy and empirical organizational research.

2 History of origin

The real origins of action research are nebulous 4. According to French and Bell, the expression itself probably goes back to John Collier. John Collier was a US government commissioner on Indian affairs between 1933 and 1945. His job was to improve racial relations. While he was entrusted with this task, he developed a strategy of joint problem identification, problem analysis and problem processing, because he could only solve his task together with the Indian tribes concerned. He called this strategy "action research" [2].

The actual programmatic version, however, goes back to the work of Kurt Lewin and Lewin Moreno from the 1940s. Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist, conducted research at the University of Michigan for a combination of research and intervention with the aim of developing a "social technology" for dealing with social conflicts [4].

Due to the explicit requirement for action, this was a blatant alternative to, in his opinion, mission-free and irresponsible science.

Lewin described his "Action Research" approach as "[...] a comparative study of the conditions and effects of different forms of social action and research leading to social action" 5, quoted n. 6. He saw this as an opportunity to find practice-oriented solutions to social problems by combining practice and science.

In doing so, knowledge should be found through close cooperation between practitioners and scientists, through which a system can be analyzed and influenced.

"In the German-speaking area, the approach was received with a delay of around two decades." 7. "Action research", "action research" and "crime research" were just a few of the different translations for "action research". Action research became particularly popular in the 1970s in the fields of educational science, sociology, social pedagogy, psychology and political science 8.

3 Objective

The central goal of action research is the connection of theoretical knowledge and practical execution 9. This "understanding between theory and practice" [3] serves both to change actions in the form of new action strategies and to solve problems in the real world 10. Contrary to other research approaches, action researchers focus accordingly on their role as active practitioners and not exclusively as passive researchers 11. As a result, the specificity consists in the fact that action research is characterized by a high degree of problem orientation, which results in the interdisciplinarity of this qualitative research method due to the high complexity of the problems 12.

4 procedure

The process of action research consists of a cycle of active and reactive phases, with several successive stages of actions connected with constant feedback loops 13. Roughly, data is collected here, the analysis of which leads to information about possible relevant action orientations and their implementation in practice 14. Due to the fact that the execution of recommendations for action leads to a change in the situation, the process of data collection-analysis-action takes place cyclically (see Figure 4.1: Cyclical action cycle Error! Reference source not found.). This alternation of action and analysis 15 serves the "critical perception of actions" 16. An important characteristic of action research is the cooperation between the researcher and the research objects (clients, persons involved, companies, etc.) in order to increase the accuracy and relevance of the collected data by making a direct reference to the data sources or the Data producer is guaranteed [15].

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Figure 4.1: Cyclical action cycle (based on: [16])

In general, there is no fixed iterative procedure, since action research processes differ to a large extent according to their initial situation, their complexity and the resulting objectives, but individual typical stages of the process can be characterized [16] (see Figure 4.2: Cyclical process of action research)

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Figure 4.2: Cyclical process of action research (based on: [3])

1. "Contact and preliminary talk" [3]: In the first phase there is the first contact between the researcher and the research object, whereby the initial situation and its problematic situation are clarified in order to determine the question to be analyzed [16] and the willingness to cooperate between the researchers and to define research objects [12].

2. "Agreement" [3]: In the second stage, a decision is made about further cooperation and in particular the method for solving the problem [3].

3. "Data collection" [3]: Various methods of data collection are used to clarify the current status quo [15]. Both the situation and the perception of the participating research objects of this situation are recorded [12]. Tools for the effective and efficient collection of data are presented in Chapter 7.

4. "Data feedback" [3]: After the data collected in phase 3 has been processed, it is returned to the client, which creates the opportunity for discussion and exchange of views [15].

5. "Diagnosis" [3]: The fifth level is used to evaluate the current situation, whereby above all strengths and weaknesses as well as successes and problems are communicated and documented through the exchange of opinions and discussions between the researcher and the research object [15].

6. "Implementation of the intervention" [3]: The data and information obtained are used in the sixth step to create action strategies [16] and to determine the options for monitoring success [3]. These recommendations are then put into practice [12].

7. "Success control" [3]: The seventh phase of action research is used to evaluate and measure the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the actions carried out and the methods used [15]. On this basis, a decision is made about the continuation or termination of the research project [15].

The possible continuation of the research project shows the characteristic of the cycle: A change between analysis and action [13].

After the end of an action research project, it is recommended that the results obtained be published in order not only to meet the interests of the client, but also to meet scientific responsibility, to make knowledge and experience and thus knowledge accessible [12].

5 concepts

The intention of action research enables a multitude of different approaches to the application of the described qualitative research method; as a result, the literature does not provide a clear breakdown of different concepts [10]. A possible distinction arises from the development history (see Chapter 2) of action research: (1) On the one hand the research method according to the founder Kurt Lewin and (2) on the other hand a method of the social sciences.

(1) Action research as “action research” [16] by the North American Kurt Lewin aims primarily at “[...] a comparative research into the conditions and effects of different forms of social action and a leading to social action Research "[5]. This shows the characteristic intention of solving societal and social problems [16]. The basis for this is the intention of action research not only to generate and record theoretical knowledge, but also to implement the resulting recommendations for action in reality and thus achieve a change in practice [10]. Accordingly, the results of the Lewin approach serve a specific problem or a real needs of society in order to initiate an improvement in the current social situation [16].

(2) The second concept of action research ties in with social research according to Marx and emerged in Germany in the 1970s [10]. Accordingly, this trend is aimed directly at the field of social sciences [10]. The focus here is primarily on direct testing of action strategies in the classroom or generally in the learning process [16]. One reason for developing this concept is the need for a scientifically sound basis for further development and optimization of teaching, which shows that this method is used in particular in the training and supervision of teachers [16].

What the explained currents of action research have in common is that the researcher becomes a practitioner and accordingly actively participates in research and especially in problem-solving [11]. This is guaranteed primarily by the fact that there is an exchange of views between the researcher and the research object as well as constant feedback and monitoring of the success of recommendations for action [13]. Both the approach of Kurt Lewin and the method based on the social sciences serve the "investigation of social systems" [10].

It should be emphasized that a clear separation or categorization is not generally possible, since action research primarily emphasizes the “individualization of research” [16], with problem solving in the foreground [9].17

6 application examples

6.1 Ex. 1: Action research as an individual initiative of a teacher

A teacher, who tried to involve the quiet students more in the classroom and to reduce their fear of speaking, wrote memory logs for herself about her experiences and made tape recordings of her lessons. It struck her that she allowed more boys than girls to have their say. She had never noticed this before, but she had an explanation for it: she just preferred to talk to the boys. On the other hand, she did not want to contribute to the speechlessness and powerlessness of women. Through tape analysis and reflection, she came to the following conclusion: “What has changed is the fact that I know about an area of ​​my actions that has been in the dark until now. I acted without being able to consciously choose one or the other variant. I now have this opportunity to make a decision and I regard it as a gain. ”[10]. By using the tape recorder and the memory log, the teacher succeeded in working out and becoming aware of the knowledge that was contained in her actions. Before that, she wasn't aware that she let more boys have their say in class and that she preferred to talk to the boys. Now that she is aware of it, she can decide whether to pursue her preference to talk to boys or rather follow her convictions and act against the speechlessness of the girls. She has objectified her data and made it independent of the moment so that she can analyze and examine it. These newly gained insights are then used directly in action research to work out a solution to the problem found. In this case, the teacher can directly improve the situation by ensuring that the girls and boys have a balanced relationship in the future lessons.

In action research it can also happen that changes or solutions arise on their own. In this example, while analyzing the tape recording, for example, the teacher continued to notice that she was paying much more attention to one student than to others. Without realizing it, she corrected her behavior and automatically put the student in his place more often: “With such heightened awareness, it happened more often in the following lessons that I put him in his place. I reckon that this is not just a short-term effect, but that I have learned something about him and me here that I will never forget. " [17]. It should also be added that the action research in this individual initiative has led to an experimental attitude towards one's own action.

Table 1: Action research as an individual initiative of a teacher in the stages of action research

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6.2 Ex. 2: Japanese shipbuilding industry

In the Japanese shipbuilding industry, innovations should be accelerated. To this end, a more modern and democratic leadership style should be introduced. For this, it was necessary to find out whether decision-making at the lower end of the hierarchy is possible so that a change in leadership styles can take place. Action research began with the introduction of 50 minute meetings per week in which the foremen consulted with their workers. In these consultations, the foreman also explained his instructions. These meetings turned out to be very successful and resulted in increased productivity.

Table 2: Change of leadership style in a Japanese shipbuilding industry in the stages of action research

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Eight years later, work accidents were to be reduced in the same shipyard, for which a safety campaign was started. For this purpose, working groups of two to eight men were formed, in which brainstorming was carried out on how the accidents occurred. Over the course of time, 60 hazard points were collected and pinned to the wall as cards, sorted by topic. The whole thing was also accompanied by a questionnaire and an open discussion. The accident rate could thus be reduced by 60% [18].

Table 3: Security campaign in a Japanese shipyard industry in the stages of action research

Figure not included in this excerpt19

6.3 Ex. 3: Differentiation in the classroom

A teacher wants to find out whether there is a need for differentiation in her school class and which type of differentiation would be best suited. First of all, various critical discussions were held with other teachers and the students were given a selected reading text, which was evaluated using an evaluation sheet. For the actual action research, lessons were then carried out with various special differentiation focuses, in which the student behavior was reflected and debriefings in order to reflect on one's own well-being.

There were already considerable differences between the students when it came to reading texts. The fastest had read the text in four minutes and answered four questions incorrectly, the slow one took 50 minutes and answered two questions incorrectly. Most students took between six and 13 minutes.For the differentiation in the lesson, the practice hours were chosen so that the students had the same basic knowledge for these practice hours through the same preparation hours. After the differentiation had been carried out in different exercise hours, it turned out that the differentiations were mostly needed or even of great necessity in order to be able to respond to the different potentials of the students. In the debriefings it also became clear that the students enjoyed learning more when differentiated classes took place. For the teacher herself, who reflected on her own condition, it turned out that the differentiations are also of great importance for herself, because she feels good when the pupils with learning difficulties also make progress and the children enjoy learning themselves increases. That's why she gradually expanded the various differentiations, motivated by the feedback from the children.

Table 4: Introduction of differentiation possibilities in the classroom in the stages of action research

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1 R. Kühn and R. Grünig, "Action research and its application in practical-normative business administration,"Operation, pp. 118-133, 1986.

2 W. L. French and C. H. Bell, "Organization Development: Behavioral Science Interventions for Organization Improvement,"New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, pp. 110-118.

3 M. Hamann, "Effects of the use of integrated standard application software in companies," Diplomarbeit Agentur diplom.de, Hamburg, 1995.

4 H. G. Petzold, “The Role of the Therapist and the Therapeutic Relationship in Integrative Therapy,” in The role of the therapist and the therapeutic relationship, Paderborn, Junfermann, 1980, pp. 223-290.

5 K. Lewin, Field Theory in the Social Sciences, Bern: H. Huber, 1963.

6 F. Gairing, Organizational Development as a Learning Process for People and Systems, Weinheim: Beltz, 2008.

7 H. Unger, Participatory Research Introduction to Research Practice, Weinheim: Springer Verlag, 2014.

8 H. Unger, M. Block and M. T. Wright, "Action research in German-speaking countries: On the history and topicality of a controversial approach from a public health perspective,"WZB Discussion Paper, p. 13, 2007.

9 J. Blome-Drees, "Action Research as a Strategy for Exploratory Cooperative Research,"Journal for Public and Nonprofit Companies (ZÖgU) / Journal for Public & Nonprofit Services, pp. 88-111, 2014.

10 U. Frank, S. Klein, H. Krcmar and A. Teubner, "Action Research in BISE - Application Potentials and Application Problems,"Business informatics and philosophy of science. Basic positions and theory cores. Working reports of the Institute for Production and Industrial Information Management, pp. 71-90, 1998.

11 T. Heinze, Qualitative Social Research, Munich and Vienna: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2001.

12 H. Altrichter, W. Aichner, K. Soukup-Altrichter and H. Welte, “Practitioners as Researchers. Research and Development through Action Research, “in Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods in Educational Science, Weinheim and Munich, Juventa Verlag, 2010, pp. 803-818.

13 M. Thomae, "Management theory on the wrong track of action research,"operation, pp. 287-293, 1999.

14 E. Spieß, “Action Research,” in Handbook of Applied Psychology. Basics, methods, practice, ecomed, 1994, pp. III-7 1-8.

15 G. Comelli, Handbook of Continuing Education for Practice in Business and Administration: Training as a Contribution to Organizational Development, Munich and Vienna: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1985.

16 D. Warneke, Action research and practical relevance in DaF teacher training, Kassel: Kassel University Press GmbH, 2007.

17 I. Morocutti, “Oral work in English lessons (or: Between the pleasure principle and feminist claim),” in Shaping schools: teachers as researchers, Klagenfurt, Hermagoras, 1989.

18 J. Misumi, "Action Research on the Development of Leadership, Decision Making Processes and Organizational Performance in a Japanes Shipyard,"Psychologia, pp. 187-223, 1975.

19 M. Freynschlag, Differentiation in the classroom - Which types of differentiation can I best identify with ?, Linz: Pedagogical Academy of the Diocese, 2006.

End of the reading sample from 16 pages