An Exploration of the Importance of Piloting and Access as Action Research

Sep. 01, 2010

Source: Educational Action Research, Volume 18, Issue 3, p. 359 – 372. (September 2010).

In this article, the authors illustrate how the piloting process has influenced two widely different studies within the educational sciences.

These studies differ in design but have as a common denominator that they used piloting methods in their preparatory process. They are also similar in the intention of the main researchers of conducting research with a critical edge.

In the first case study described, our solidarity lies with the disadvantaged school children of South Africa.
In the second case study, our solidarity lies with a group of teachers who through an action research project wanted to question a school policy that they do not feel benefits all school children in the Norwegian lower secondary school.
The two cases are presented separately and explore the change in conceptual and methodological emphasis in the research procedure.

The authors emphasize how important the piloting and access processes are in order to learn from them and reduce mistakes in the main research design. The authors argue that both piloting and gaining access can be seen as a form of action research, in that the intention is to learn and to change future action; that is, the purpose is to find out how to conduct a project more effectively.

A reflective piloting phase is likely to increase the validity of the research results and can in itself be viewed as action research. Through the piloting phase, learning that may prove invaluable for the later research process is likely to take place. As piloting can be of great value for research results, it should also be given much greater attention in the research literature in general.

While the best case scenarios are overrepresented in the research literature, the learning from and of flaws and imperfections that are discovered in the piloting stages of research is equally important for the research community as well as for the actual participants in the researching process. Yet this is under utilized and often left under-reported.

Updated: Jan. 23, 2011