In order to learn whether your approach has succeeded, you will analyze the data you have collected, and you will interpret the data to make meaning from it. The interpretation will inform your future teaching practice. To help others learn the lessons you have learned, you can share your action research story by writing an article, speaking at a conference, or posting online. At this stage, you have information to begin planning the next cycle of action research.
Now is the time to begin your analysis of the data. But before your data can be analyzed it may need to be edited, coded and organized into some form for analysis. You might want to consider using your data in a spreadsheet software program such as Excel or SPSS.
Depending on the type of action research that you are doing can change the type of analysis you might do. Descriptive statistics describe the data and can provide information about how a group has changed over time such as :
- Measures of central tendency
- Mean, median, mode
- Measures of variability
- Variance, standard variation, range
- Measures of relative standing
- Percentile rank
Inferential statistics provide additional information for your analysis. For example if you are looking at how a group changes over time you can use a t-tests or Chi-Square. If you are looking at differences between control and intervention groups, it would be better to use a t-test or Chi-Square. Or if your action research is set to look at differences among more than 2 groups then perhaps an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) would be the best choice.
Consider finding a parent, colleague, or university partner(s) who already know how to input and analyze data. This assistance can make this part of the research process much easier.
One tool that can be easily used to assist in analysis is a spreadsheet. The following is a list of some web locations for assistance and instruction for using a spreadsheet to run statistical analysis.
When you have interpreted your research results, you should plan to disseminate them, and use the findings to inform and change your practices.
In interpreting your results consider:
- What do the results of your analysis mean?
- What did you find out?
- Were your hypotheses correct?
Action research seeks to use research-based knowledge and findings to actively change behavior. So the ultimate question to yourself is, "what will I do that is similar and what will I do that is different based on what I learned in my action research?"
One of the distinguishing features of Action Research is that its primary goal is to take personal action based on the research findings. Some of your options include:
- Make recommendations that will resolve the problem.
- Make plans and decisions about interventions based on the findings.
- Make program plans based on the findings.
- Develop action plans based on the findings.
Now is also the time to evaluate your action research process and look for what needs changing. Consider:
- What would you do differently next time?
- Does the instrument or process that you are using need revising?
- Did the research generate the information that you wanted or could use? And if not how could you?
- And from what happed, were any new questions generated?
According to Mills (2000) and Kemmis and Wilkinson (1998) they suggest the following questions should be applied to your action research:
- Does the project clearly address a problem or issue in practice that needs to be solved?
- Did the researcher collect sufficient data to help address the problem?
- Did the plan of action build logically from the data?
- Did the action research actually lead to a change or did a solution to a problem make a difference?
Asking participants what they learned from their involvement empowers them to think of themselves as active learners in an environment where evaluation is something to be used supportively for growth rather than something to be feared.
Action research results represent a considerable effort, and should be shared with others who may be seeking solutions to the same problems. Teachers read education publications and attend conferences in search of knowledge that will improve their practice.
Making a presentation at a conference
- Choose the conference where the audience will have an interest in your work. A conference may be sponsored by a local school district, a regional consortium, a state education organization, a national group, or an international group. You can find conferences by asking others about the conferences they attend. reading educational publications, and by doing web searches. Most professional organizations sponsor conferences, so check with groups like the National Science Teachers association or the state association of science teachers, for example.
- Read the timelines and proposal guidelines for the conference you have selected. Conferences require proposals to be submitted up to a year in advance. Each conference has unique requirements for proposals and presentations. Talk with someone who has successfully presented at the conference, such as colleagues or staff at the school district office or university.
- Develop a proposal and ask a colleague to review it.
- Submit your proposal.
Writing an article for an educational publication
- Choose the publication where the audience will have an interest in your work. Consider the publications you already read, or visit the school professional development library or a university library to identify other possibilities. Ask colleagues about the publications they read. Most professional organizations publish journals, so check with groups like the National Science Teachers association or the state association of science teachers, for example.
- Read the timelines and submission guidelines for the publication you have selected. Each publication has unique requirements for submitting articles. Talk with someone who has successfully published.
- Develop an article and ask a colleague to review it.
- Submit your article.
- Prepare to work with editors to polish your piece, prepare illustrations, and format it for publication.