Action Research
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Purpose of Action Research

Action Research: A Definition

Action Research, a scholarly approach to improve teaching and learning, can be a central piece of professional development. This project-based research can benefit professors, counselors, and librarians by actively engaging them in the collaborative study of learning as it takes place day by day in the context of their own practices. Through this small-scale, practical research, faculty members can investigate questions regarding student learning that directly impact their practices. As part of the portfolio in the tenure process, Action Research demonstrates how some of the essential competencies are evident in your practice.

Action Research (AR) attempts to provide some insight into how students learn. AR encourages faculty members and professionals to use their classrooms, offices and libraries as laboratories for the study of learning.

Action research is a deliberate, solution-oriented investigation, characterized by spiraling cycles of:

  1. problem identification  
  2. data collection
  3. analysis
  4. reflection
  5. action
  6. redefinition

It is a process that continues throughout your career. Even as you report results and reflect on the process in your portfolio, you will continue to evaluate and improve upon the work you started with your Action Research.




 The PDF document below illustrates how the cycles of reflect, plan, act, and observe work in sequence with your Action Research Project.



Action Research differs from traditional research in two important way


  1. It is not an add-on activity. It is embedded in the regular ongoing work of the class.
  2. It makes the complete cycle from formulating relevant questions to making changes in the practice of teaching.


Traditional Research

Action Research


To draw conclusions. Focus is on advancing knowledge in the field. Insights may be generalized to other settings.

To make decisions. Focus is on the improvement of educational practice. Limited generalizability.


Theory: Hypotheses/research questions derive from more general theoretical propositions.

Practice: Research questions derive from practice. Theory plays secondary role.

Data Analysis

Rigorous statistical analysis.

Focus on practical, not statistical significance.


Random or representative sample.

Students with whom they work.

Adapted from: Mc Millan, J. H. & Wergin. J. F. (1998). "Understanding and Evaluating Educational Research."



Elements of an Action Research Project: Standards of Scholarship


  1. Clear Goals
  2. Adequate Preparation
  3. Appropriate Methods
  4. Significant Results
  5. Reflective Critique
  6. Effective Presentation



Clear Goals

 The components of the Clear Goals section of an AR Project include:

  1. Abstract of the study
  2. Action Research Question



Your abstract should concisely summarize and highlight the primary points of your Action Research Project. The purpose is to help colleagues quickly decide if your project can support their own project or practice. The abstract should be concise and include purpose, methods, and results of your project. An abstract should not be longer than ½ page or 125 words





Action Research Question

The research question must be included here and should be polished and clearly aligned with the FLO.   You may have more than one research question. The following prompts can help you identify the question that will be the basis for your Action Research Project. Answer the questions that are relevant to your project as a way to focus your ideas. Remember, action research questions are about what you are doing, not what other people are doing.  


As with your Year 1 ILP, the Research Question should


Adequate Preparation

As part of adequate preparation for Action Research, the researcher must consider the work from multiple perspectives. As you assemble your portfolio, you will include your own reflection (Self-perspective) and consultation with others (Student, Colleague, and Expert perspectives) that helped prepare you for this project. In your portfolio, you will document relevant information from each of the perspectives (approximately 1/2 to 1 page for each perspective). Your reflection should integrate, and synthesize the relevant information from the four perspectives in relation to the question.


  1. Student (class discussions/surveys/papers/classroom assessment techniques)
  2. Colleagues (discussions/surveys/workshops)
  3. Expert (review of the literature)
  4. Self-reflection (why do I want to know?)



Appropriate Methods

The appropriate methods should include student learning outcomes, performance indicators, teaching strategies, the assessment plan, and the AR methodology design.

Methodologies should:


Student Learning Outcomes

When considering methods for implementing the AR project, it is critical to articulate the "Student Learning Outcomes" (SLO). A Student Learning Outcome states what a student should understand and/or be able to do as a result of what she has learned in a course, library orientation, counseling session. Consider the following questions:

  1. What will my students know and be able to do better as a result of the intervention, innovation, or strategy I employ here?
  2. Does the SLO connect to or support the outcomes of a course or program?
  3. Does the SLO describe learning that is meaningful in a real-world context?

Effective Student Learning Outcomes should be results-oriented, clearly understood by colleagues and students, measurable, aligned with the Faculty Learning Outcome, and critical to teaching and learning. Candidate may have multiple SLO's, if applicable.


Performance Indicators

With each Student Learning Outcome, Performance Indicators identify the small steps students take to achieve the learning outcome.   Performance Indicators are pre-determined criteria, stated by you, that identify these steps. The following questions can help you identify the performance indicators of the student learning outcomes for your project. Answer the questions that are relevant to your project as a way to focus your ideas:

  1. What specific qualities or evidence will I observe in the students' work/performance/behavior that will demonstrate to me they have achieved this competency or indicator?
  2. What is the minimum level of performance I am willing to accept from a student to say he or she has achieved the learning outcome(s)? (This is your criteria.)
  3. What student core competencies and indicators (TVCA) are related to these outcomes?

Performance Indicators of Student Learning Outcomes are the qualitative or quantitative interim measurements demonstrating that the meaningful steps in student learning are being taken to achieve mastery. In other words, Indicators identify the specific, incremental traits or features of successful student mastery. Indicators should clearly identify the incremental traits of mastery sequenced for optimum learning. If multiple SLOs are identified, indicators should be listed for each SLO.



Teaching Strategies

Teaching strategies are the methods, strategies, and/or techniques to support student mastery of the student learning outcomes you identified in your project. They should be appropriate for achieving the SLO, should follow the rigors of the discipline, and should be clearly explained step by step. Include reference to relevant artifacts. The teaching strategies should be a step by step plan for the project (not for each SLO).

The following questions can help you decide the methods, strategies, and/or techniques to support student mastery of the student learning outcomes you identified in your project. Answer the questions that are relevant to your project as a way to focus your ideas.

  1. What are my learning activities? Will these activities prepare my students for mastery? What are the processes for taking students from beginning to end?
  2. How can I establish an inclusive and safe learning environment for my students during this process?
  3. How will my students make connections with the content, each other, and the instructor, counselor, or librarian?
  4. How am I going to keep records of the processes (student learning, teaching strategies, etc.) for my action research project?   For example, written methods: personal journal or diary, field notes, surveys, questionnaires?   Live methods: Interviews, role play, video or audio tape? Include reference to relevant artifacts.

In your portfolio you should refer to artifacts relevant in your teaching strategies, such as rubrics, surveys, or activities you created.   However, you would not include the results from students.


Assessment Plan

Assessments should include a comprehensive set of formative and summative assessment tools that adequately measure the SLO performance indicators. Include reference to relevant artifacts.

  1. How will I measure the performance indicators described in the SLOs section?
  2. What tool(s) am I going to use to measure/gauge how my students perform in relation to the indicators in the SLOs? (papers, quizzes, rubrics, etc.)
  3. Are there tools I can use that will give the students formative feedback (prior to receiving summative feedback)?
  4. How will my students know the standards or criteria their work will be evaluated against?
  5. When choosing an assessment technique, I should ask myself:
  6. When applying an assessment technique, I should ask myself:

In your portfolio you should refer to artifacts relevant in your teaching strategies, such as rubrics, surveys, or activities you created.  However, you would not include the results from students.


AR Methodology Design

Action Research is a scholarly inquiry to improve teaching and student learning. You have already described your plan's student learning outcomes, performance indicators, strategies, and assessment methods of the student learning outcome. Now, you will design a plan to assess the effectiveness of the innovative teaching and assessment methods you implemented in your project. Remember, action research is about what you are doing, not what other people are doing.

The following questions can help you decide the most effective methods to measure the usefulness of your innovations. Answer the questions that are relevant to your project as a way to focus your ideas.

  1. How will I know whether or not (to what degree) my innovations have worked?
  2. Have I planned how I will analyze the data?
  3. Have I collect a reasonable amount of data?
  4. Is my process of analysis manageable?
  5. Have I planned adequate time to do the analysis?

Consider the validity of your results:   What kind of evidence will I produce to judge the value of my innovation(s) incorporated in my action research project? For example,

Consider the reliability of your results:


In your portfolio you should refer to artifacts relevant in your methodology design, such as rubrics, surveys, or activities you created.   However, you would not include the results from students.


Significant Results

methods.png The significant results provide primary evidence and analysis to justify your answer to the research question. The results should be:

Project results should be analyzed in relation to the original FLO and research question, and explanation of the evidence and supporting artifacts should demonstrate that the candidate has learned, achieved, or accomplished the FLO. Explanation should include description of how project results will inform your practice and impact student learning. Evidence and supporting artifacts should be sufficient to demonstrate achievement of the FLO. You should use an effective mix of text and graphics to clearly present and explain the data/findings/results. Student work/feedback, if applicable, should document the achievement of the goals of the FLO. Remove students' names from all student work.

The following prompts can help you explain the findings of your Action Research Project. Answer the questions that are relevant to your project as a way to focus your ideas.

  1. How shall I describe the results of my project? (tables, graphs, narratives)
  2. How well have I labeled and explained my graphs/charts?
  3. How well did my students accomplish the SLOs?
  4. Did the methods remedy the problem in terms of changes in knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and commitment of students and/or of myself?
  5. Were the results what I expected?

In your portfolio you should refer to artifacts that document the results of your research question.


Reflective Critique


General AR Project Reflection

In general, you should reflect on what was learned while completing the Action Research Project and how this might improve future work. The reflection relates your project to student learning and plans for revision of teaching practice in light of results should be clearly stated.

  1. Given my results, how will I use this information to improve student learning in the future? To improve my practice?
  2. What additional questions arose that I might want to pursue? How might I change my research question in light of the results?
  3. What other innovation might I try next time, based on these results?




Essential Competencies of a Valencia Educator Reflection


For each essential competency, reflect on:


Reflect on the Essential Competencies of a Valencia Educator addressed in the AR Project.




Effective Presentation

The effective presentation of the entire project should be:

Plan for Dissemination

It is commonly held that scholarly work should be made public. In one or two sentences, describe how you will make your project public. You are required to upload the action research project into the AR Builder in Atlas, and distribute the portfolio to the dean and panel members. The following prompts can help you identify how you plan to make your work public, both in the Action Research Builder and beyond.

Remember, when communicating your results: 

Valencia's Action Research Builder

  1. Tutorial with examples and explanations for each element of an ARP
  2. Puts finished ARP's in a consistent, readable and printable format
  3. Professional quality (edit)
  4. Database for searching all Valencia's ARP s

To access the ARP Builder, log into Atlas and click on the "Faculty" tab. Directions to log access the ARP builder can also be found on Valencia's website. Directions can also be followed on the next page.

How to Use the Action Research Builder

It is recommended to enter your Action Research Project in the builder when the candidate is completely finished with his/her project (when ready for final submission). As you work on your ARP and get feedback from your panel, changes are inevitable. It is best to wait until all changes have been made before entering it in the builder. If you start earlier, you will need to go back into the builder and copy/paste any changes.

Step 1 Log into Atlas.

Step 2 Click on the Faculty tab.

Step 3 Scroll down to the section "Faculty Development" (bottom middle). Click on the Action Research Project Builder link.


Step 4 Click on the "start a new project" link.


Step 5 Fill out the information on the Research Project page. On the left side, there is a link with an example to demonstrate how the form is filled out.

Under the "Program/Initiative Supporting Project, all candidates in the tenure process working on their FLO #1 Action Research Project should select Teaching/Learning Academy (TLA).


Step 6 Click "Launch Project".

Step 7 From the upper menu, you will go through each of the menu items and copy/paste the information from your completed project. Remember, there is an explanation and example on each page you enter information. Each tab/link in the menu bar correlates with a section of your Action Research Project. Note that in some sections (such as Adequate Preparation and Methods/Assessments), there is a drop down to select the subcategories. Make sure you fill out each section. On each page, you have the opportunity to upload documents or graphics. Make sure you save your file frequently. Atlas times out fairly frequently, and you will lose any data you did not save if it times out prior to saving.


Step 8 When the project has been completely entered, and checked for accuracy, you have one last step to publish the file for dissemination. On the "Project" page at the bottom you must select YES to the "Completed" (in red) section. Once you select YES, the project will be visible to your committee to show you have made your work public (required for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning).