Action Research

Action Research



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Session Title: Action Research: A Formative Evaluation Strategy in Times of Complexity and Chaos
Panel Session 622 to be held in Panzacola Section F4 on Friday, Nov 13, 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM
Sponsored by the Systems in Evaluation TIG and the Pre-K - 12 Educational Evaluation TIG
Chair(s):
Daniel Folkman, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, folkman@uwm.edu
Abstract: How do we evaluate programs that are designed and implemented in complex, rapidly changing, and indeterminate environments? Join our panel presentation to learn how action research was employed as a formative evaluation strategy that is well suited for programs operating in complex and/or chaotic environments. The panel members will highlight the action research experience of a group of middle school teachers and administrators as they implement a physical fitness and nutrition education program in their schools. Emphasis will be placed discussing how this group of individuals were able to identify and respond successfully to a myriad of unanticipated issues that emerged as they implemented their projects. The presentation concludes with a matrix of critical learning that has resulted from the action projects. This matrix can serve as a blueprint for evaluation practitioners who are interested in applying action research as a formative evaluation strategy in complex and chaotic program environments.
Complexity Theory and Action Research as Formative Assessment
Daniel Folkman, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, folkman@uwm.edu
This presentation will provide an overview of the action research strategy and its connection to evaluation practice in complex environments. Emphasis will be placed on how the action research process was organized and facilitated as both a formative evaluation strategy as well as professional development training for program staff and other stakeholders. The end result of this process is a collection of action projects that document the implementation process, the opportunities and challenges that were encountered, and the results that were produced. In addition, the participants gathered stories and anecdotes that captured the dynamic essence of the programs being implemented. The presentation will highlight the use of anecdotes as a data collection strategy and its use in formative assessment, problems solving, and continuous program improvement.
Action Inquiry: From Project Implementation to Learning in Times of Complexity and Chaos
Sheryl Gotts, Family Leadership Academy, sherylgotts@sbcglobal.net
This presentation will highlight several of the action research projects that were undertaken by the different team members. Each action project represents a different strategy that was employed as the group of teachers and administrators worked they way toward achieving program goals that included a) increasing the level of physical activity among the students in school and home, and b) improving the eating habits of students and families through nutrition education. The presentation concludes with a matrix of critical learning that has resulted from the action projects. This matrix can serve as a blueprint for evaluation practitioners who are interested in applying action research as a strategy that combines formative assessment with staff training and development.
Learning to Making Exercise Fun: An Emergent Outcome
Mary Laubenheimer, Milwaukee Public Schools, laubenme@milwaukee.k12.wi.us
This presentation is an in-depth case study of one action research project. The goal was to increase student physical activity by organizing an exercise session before lunch. Challenges came in all directions including resistance among some of the students and finding time and space in the school to hold the exercise sessions. The case study highlights the trial-and-error sequence in which a solution was eventually found. The presentation concludes with a discussion on how the process represents movement within the complexity framework. Some of the activities represent simple and predictable solutions while the "WOW" moment of success occurred as student receptivity emerged spontaneously and unpredictably. What followed was a cascade of min-successes including increases in student exercise, improved classroom and academic behavior, and growing interest in the exercise session school wide.
A Birds Eye Perspective: Seeing Systemic Issues Emerge From Individual Action Research Projects
Brett Fuller, Milwaukee Public Schools, fullerba@milwaukee.k12.wi.us
This presentation takes a bird's eye view of the combined action research projects and reflects on their value from a district wide, administrative perspective. Several of the action research projects uncovered a variety issues that call for a larger, system wide response from school district administrators. One such issue revolves around the challenge of improving the nutritional value of school lunches and snacks. One action project involved documenting the choices that students make in the school lunch line in terms of vegetables versus fries and other high fate menu items. It turns out that the range of choices is being limited by the school lunch menu, which is a central office and district policy issues. Learn how this school administrator responded to the emergent information from an action research project and framed a larger systemic problem solving strategy around nutrition and school lunch menus.
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