Action Research (AR) is a (typically cyclic or spiral) process for planning change interventions and for intentional learning from experience, first described by social psychologist Kurt Lewin (’46) .
The method is characterized by intervention in real world systems, followed by close scrutiny of the effects.
The aim of AR aim is to improve practice, and AR is typically conducted by a combined team of practitioners and researchers.
AR can also be described as the process by which practitioners attempt to study their problems scientifically in order to guide, correct, and evaluate their decisions and actions. (Stephen Corey, 1953). Or more simply, as researching on the implications or effect of an action that is planned to resolve a certain problem.
It is an informal, qualitative, interpretive, reflective, collaborative and experimental methodology that requires all the participants to be collaborative researchers. AR is usually carried out by people who recognize a problem or limitation in their workplace situation and, together, devise a plan to counteract the problem, implement the plan, observe what happens, reflect on these outcomes, revise the plan, implement it, reflect, revise and so on.
In a way the AR method combines the strengths of academic research (objective, scientific, but not necessarily relevant) and consulting research (often subjective and case-based, often not very scientific, but tuned towards relevancy).
The Action Research Process
In its original form, AR was a three-step spiral process of 1. planning which involves reconnaissance; 2. taking actions; and 3. fact-finding about the results of the action. (Kurt Lewin, 1947)
A present-day action research cycle could have the following steps:
•Data Collection > Evaluation > Action > Critical Reflection > Data Collection > Evaluation > …
•Planning (definition of the problem research practices) > Acting (implementation) > Observing (action and data collection) > Reflecting (developing revised action derived from what has been learned)