Key features of the action research process

Last Updated on 12/11/2021 by James Barron

The process of action research is a cycle that would normally have 2 or more iterations, depending upon the action research model there are varying stages within the cycle, these stages include the following:

Problem/area for improvement identification, which is the purpose of the action research based on the area that requires improvement, a question should then be documented that transforms the problem into an answerable question, e.g. How can I increase engagement? Once the question has been formulated it is important to conduct research within “that particular area in the literature; this is sometimes referred to as a ‘literature review’.” (Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 269). During this stage the goal is to find a wide selection of reliable and credible sources that have documented their research findings of the question or similar questions. Using the information located during the literature review you are able to create a hypothesis based on the question. The hypothesis is the answer to the question, e.g. removing student’s phones will increase the levels of engagement. Whilst it would be easier to use this existing research to assume that implementing the same resolution will resolve the problem, without conducting action research the results would be anecdotal as all student groups, classes, courses, lecturers and institutions are different and what will work for one lecturer may have the opposite results for another. The next stage is to decide what data is required to be able to fully measure the results and how that data will be obtained. The data will either be Primary Data, in which the data that is collected is ‘fresh’ from first-hand sources, with methods such as Surveys and Interviews, alternatively Secondary Data has been collected by someone else and may have had statistical processing performed, the literature review will provide Secondary Data. Some of the methods available to collect data are Interviews, Questionnaires, Surveys, Observations, Focus Groups, Documents, Records and Marks.

Once the plans from the previous stages are complete it is time to take action in the intervention stage and implement a change, followed by collecting the data. This data will then be analysed and triangulated from multiple viewpoints, data collection methods and sources of data so that conclusions can be drawn; the final stage is to plan further action as part of the next iteration. Throughout this process it is essential to remember that “action research is participative and collaborative; it is undertaken by individuals, with a common purpose” (Koshy, 2010, p. 1), as a result, ensuring all stakeholders are involved in the process is essential, such as involving students in the research rather than conducting the research on them and collaborating with peers and management to gain permission and ensuring suitable information is available. It is important to consider that during action research everyone is involved; as the researcher is involved it may have an impact on results, being aware of this impact is known as reflexivity. “Reflexivity is a process (and it should be a continuing process) of reflecting on how the researcher could be influencing a research project.” (Quirkos, 2016)


Gould, J., & Roffey-Barentsen, J. (2014). Achieving your diploma in education and training (1st ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Koshy, V. (2010). Action Research for Improving Educational Practice: A Step-By-Step Guide. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Quirkos. (2016, September 29). Reflexivity. Retrieved from Quirkos:

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James Barron
My first experience of teaching was in 2016, when I was asked to
deliver a talk to a group of 16-year-olds on what it was like to start
your own business. I immediately knew I wanted to become more
involved in teaching but I didn’t know where to start as I had not
previously considered a career in education. A few weeks later I
agreed to teach a class of Chinese students from the Shanghai
Technical Institute of Electronics and Information, who had travelled
to the UK to learn English and Software Engineering, after that I was
hooked. Within the next few years, I taught hundreds of students of
many different nationalities, aged from 16 to 60, and from
levels 2 to 6. I focused my time teaching with Bath University and
Bath College for several more years until I felt a change was in order.
For the last few years, I have taught remotely with several private
training organisations, provided dedicated one to one coaching
sessions, provided consultancy on teaching and assessment practices
and written about my experiences as a teacher. I plan to continue
with my current activities for the foreseeable future but I’m always
open to new teaching experiences.

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