Literature Review on the Use of Action Research in Higher Education

February, 2017

Source: Educational Action Research, Vol. 25, No. 1, 3–22, 2017

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This literature review aims to examine the use of action research in higher education. It examines pedagogical research as a field of study. It also considers student engagement.

Action research and pedagogic research
The authors argue that action research links between pedagogic research and reflective practice in higher education.
Action research also enables to explore issues relating to critical pedagogy and social justice.

The authors also found that there is an increasing trend to explore action research at an institutional level. These studies break down the demarcations between traditional scholarship, research and administration/organization.
Studies found that utilising a participant action research cycle, directed by a progressive institutional learning and teaching strategy, faculty members and the student body are provided with the opportunity to contribute toward the accomplishment of institutional change.

The literature also reveals that action research approaches have frequently been explored as a means of identifying strategies for curriculum development at an institutional level.
It was also found that pedagogical research particularly examined the use of action research in teacher training programmes. Studies explore these programmes, which use action research, from the perspectives of both learners and the teachers.
The findings reveal that institutional development also considers questions regarding the effectiveness of an institution’s current continuing professional development programme, the identification and evaluation of development that necessarily accompanies institutional growth and change, and the examination of collaboration with staff in re-writing the continuing professional development programme.
The authors also found that the action research literature has some limitations.
It is performed with a single cohort by an insider-researcher who seeks to inform personal practice or assess a pedagogical modification.
They also found that action research literature is centred primarily on description of the reflective process rather than any detailed critical evaluation of the intervention/innovation and methodology.

Action Research and Student Engagement
Many educational action research studies examine how to obtain feedback on teaching practice from the students.
In this studies, students play a key role in improving teaching practice and contribute to the their teachers' professional development.

The authors argue that using action research to assess strategies where students are either passive or non-passive in the process is important in the development of an improved learning environment.
The authors argue that many studies demonstrate effective examples of pedagogy and andragogy regarding the value of action research in enhancing student engagement through reflective practice, active participation and empowerment.

The authors conclude that action research has produced important changes in practice. However, it needs to continue to evolve and respond to the limitations identified in this review. 

Updated: Oct. 07, 2018