Action Research in Professional Development

Action Research in Professional Development


Professional development denotes the advancement of a professional in his/her role. In the teaching context, Glattenhorn (1987), states that teachers systematically gain an increase in experience and professional growth in their roles when they engage in examining their teaching ability. According to Quattlebaum, professional development is broader in scope when compared to career development, and it is precisely defined as growth, which occurs through the teacher’s professional cycle. As such, this is a form of development that occurs outside the scope of formal career training within the educational context (Perrett 7). Professional development occurs through various means and methods including in-service programs, action research and professional workshops. All these methods of professional development have their ups and downs, but action research and in-service methods are better in improving professional development within the teaching fraternity. Professional seminars may be effective, but they fail to enhance or simulate the actual environment within which the acquired knowledge will be applied. On the contrary, action research and in-service programs offer an appropriate contextual environment within which to develop professionally because they offer practical experience that simulates the real work environment. However, according to Atay (139), in-service programs are found to be unsatisfactory because they do not provide enough time for teachers to be actively involved in the actual teaching environment, and to reflect upon their teaching experiences. As such, teachers are left with action research as the only method that they can use to continually develop themselves. This is due to the fact that action research is a continuous process, in which teachers can engage throughout their professional life.

According to West (89), teachers should always be reflecting upon their teaching so as to find ways to improve their teaching skills and approaches. This simple statement provides an explicit definition of action research. Amidst other recent competing definitions, Lewin’s definition from 1946 is perhaps still the most comprehensive definition. Lewin’s definition states that action research is a three-step spiralling process of planning, implementation and assessment of one’s research (West 90). In a layman’s language, this would perhaps be termed as a process in which the teacher study’s what is happening in his/her classroom and decides how to make it better (West 90). In essence, action research is akin to a mirror wherein a teacher can see their reflection in terms of curriculum delivery so as to determine flaws that need effort in delivery improvement or perfections that should be upheld. In so doing, the teacher finds that s/he has inculcated a culture of self-assessment, which leads to the improvement of skills and delivery of content. The constant upholding of this process fosters professional development because the teacher is able to learn new things. According to Margaret and Lederman (397), action research has been increasingly advocated as an important element in pre-service education. This is because it facilitates the training of teachers to be more reflective professionals that can systematically reflect upon their professional actions and learn pedagogy, which will enable them to make professional decisions. Margaret and Lederman (397), state that the continuous learning fostered by action research ensures that teachers are on an ever developing path, which is facilitated by inquiry. The systematic classroom study fostered through action research offers a clear perspective, which is easily missed by the ‘untrained eye,’ which looks at learning and teaching in a cursory manner. Margaret and Lederman (398), state that the improvement of classroom observation through learning basics on action research significantly improves teaching, and therefore, positively impacting on professional development.

According to Margarita, Ilona and Jurate (13), action research not only improves processes, but also helps the teachers to create and develop their own practical theories as well as affirm existent ones through their own practical engagement in research facilitated by the process. This brings conviction of professionalism within individuals because their practice will be no more of a theoretical pursuit, but rather an evidence-based process where their own experiences serve as the teacher (Margarita et al. 17). The process is also important because it gives the teachers a participatory mode of understanding that links theory development to practice. In the past, research into education and actual teaching had been distinct elements, and this had often led to the development of theories that later proved deficient in application. However, with the linking of the two elements, better theory development is expected because the research process is merged with actual teaching through action research (Stringer 62).

While conventional research has been significant in informing the education profession and developing theories that support education. The gap between the researcher and the teacher has been significantly impacting the application of theories developed because they may fail to fit the context. As such, action research provides and solution that links research to actual teaching. The advantage of this linkage is that the teaching process gets improved while at the same time the teacher develops professionally by improving skills in assessing their practice (Guskey 61).

Works Cited

Atay, Derin. “Teacher research for professional Development.” ELT Journal, 62 (2), 2008: 139-147. Print.

Glattenhorn, A. “Cooperative Professional Development: Peer centred options for teacher growth.” Educational Leadership, 3 (45), 1987: 31-35. Print.

Guskey, T. R. Evaluating Professional Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. 2000. Print.

Margaret, L. N. & Lederman, N. G. “Action research: Our actions may speak louder than our words.” School Science and Mathematics, 97 (8), 1997: 397-399. Print.

Margarita, T. Ilona, Z. & Jurate, A. “Professional Teacher Development in Performing Action Research.” Vocational Education: Research & Reality. 15, 2008: p10-21. Print.

Perrett, G. “Teacher Development through Action Research: A case study in focused action research. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 27(2), 2003: 1-10. Print.

Quattlebaum, Simons. “Why Professional Development for Teachers is Critical.” The Evolution, 2 May. 2013. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.


Stringer, E. T. Action Research in Education (2nd Ed.). New Jersey: Pearson. 2008. Print.

West, Chad. Action Research as a Professional Development Activity.”Arts Education Policy Review, 112, 2011: 89-94. Print.


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