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The Action Research Guidebook


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Table of Contents

Preface to the 2nd Edition Publisher's Acknowledgments About the Author 1. Introduction to Action Research Why Conduct Action Research? The Complexity of Routine Instructional Decisions Key Terms and Concepts Universal Student Success 2. Finding a Focus Zeroing in on Your Priorities Using Reflective Writing to Find a Focus Performance, Process, and Program Targets and Action Research by School Leaders Using a Journal to Identify Action Research Foci Reflective Interviews Reflective Interviewing and the Problem of Isolation Analytic Discourse Team Reflection 3. Refining the Focus Visualizing Success Doing an Instructional Postmortem Taking Stock of One's Recent Leadership Experience Comparing Your Experience With the Experience of Others Developing Criteria to Measure Changes With Priority Achievement Targets Creating Performance Rating Scales Rating Scales and Program Action Research The Special Problem of Long-Range Goals Assessing Rate of Growth Determining Adequate Yearly Progress in Real Time Producing Your Own Rate-of-Growth Charts Ascertaining Rate of Growth in Leadership Programs 4. Articulating a Theory of Action If Not Us, Who? An Adequate Knowledge Base Already Exists Going Beyond Proven Practices: Building a Theory of Action Two Kinds of Variables Creating Mileposts on the Route to Mastery Inferring Independent Variables Using the Priority Pie to Identify, Clarify, and Weigh Independent Variables Using the Priority Pie With Descriptive Research 5. Drawing a Theory of Action Why a Map? Building a Graphic Reconstruction Graphic Reconstructions for Quasi-Experimental Research Graphic Reconstructions With Descriptive Research Proofing a Theory of Action-Leadership Projects 6. Determining the Research Questions Three Generic Action Research Questions Developing Your Own Research Questions Two-Step Walk-Through Drafting the Questions Surfacing Research Questions for Leadership Projects 7. Building a Data-Collection Plan Data Collection and the Competing Demands for Your Time What Qualifies as Teaching? What Qualifies as Data? Data in Descriptive Research Data in Quasi-Experimental Research Data Collection and Concerns About Precision Fishing in a Sea of Data Securing Research Assistants Building a Triangulated Data-Collection Plan Data-Collection Planning for Leadership Projects Integrating Efficiencies Into Your Data-Collection Work Using Technology to Compile and Assemble Action Research Data Keeping a Researcher's Journal 8. Analyzing the Data Trend Analysis Organizing Data to Help Answer the Three Generic Questions ACR Question 1: What Did We Do? ACR Question 2: What Changes Occurred Regarding the Achievement Targets? ACR Question 3: What Was the Relationship Between Actions Taken and Any Changes in Performance on the Targets? Drawing Tentative Assertions Using Member Checking to Add Credibility to the Tentative Assertions Additional Tools for Qualitative Data Analysis Qualitative Data Analysis Using Bins and a Matrix Low-Tech Strategies for Bins and Matrixes Using a Computer for Bins and Matrixes 9. Turning Findings Into Action Plans Modifying Your Theory of Action Data-Based Decision Making Turning Your Findings Into Ed Specs Solicit and Brainstorm Action Alternatives Using Ed Specs to Evaluate Action Alternatives Using Ed Specs to Evaluate Action Alternatives for Schoolwide Projects Completing the Cycle: Revised Theory of Action 2 10. Reporting and Sharing Action Research Common Issues Formats for Reporting Creating a Bank of Abstracts Creating a District Archive 11. Conclusion: The School as a Learning Organization The Two Keys: Coherence and Congruence Putting the Pieces Together Resource A: How to Use the Feedback Forms and Summary Reports Resource B: Five Characteristics of a Quality Action Research Project Resource C: Applications for Leadership Projects Glossary References Index

About the Author

Richard Sagor recently retired from his position as professor and director of the Educational Leadership Program at Lewis & Clark College. In 1997 he founded ISIE (pronounced "I see"), the Institute for the Study of Inquiry in Education, to work with schools and educational organizations on the use of action research and data-based school improvement while he was a professor of educational leadership at Washington State University (WSU). Prior to his work at the university level, Sagor had 14 years of public school administrative experience, including service as an assistant superintendent, high school principal, instruction vice principal, disciplinary vice principal, and alternative school head teacher. He has taught the entire range of students, from the gifted to the learning disabled, in the areas of social studies, reading, and written composition. Educated in the public schools of New York, Sagor received his BA from New York University and two MA degrees as well as a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Oregon. Beyond his work as a teacher and administrator, Sagor has had extensive international consulting experience. He served as a site visitor for the United States Department of Education's Secondary School Recognition Program and has worked with the Department of Defense's overseas schools, numerous state departments of education, and over 200 separate school districts across North America. His consulting has focused primarily on leadership development, the use of data with standards-based school improvement, collaborative action research, teacher motivation, and teaching at-risk youth. His articles on school reform and action research have received awards from the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Educational Press Association of America. Sagor's books include The TQE Principal: A Transformed Leader; At-Risk Students: Reaching and Teaching Them; How To Conduct Collaborative Action Research; Local Control and Accountability: How to Get It, Keep It, and Improve School Performance; Guiding School Improvement With Action Research; Motivating Students and Teachers in an Era of Standards; and Collaborative Action Research for Professional Learning Communities. Sagor can be contacted at the Institute for the Study of Inquiry in Education, 16420 SE McGillivray, Suite 103-239, Vancouver, WA 98683, or by e-mail at


"This new edition is simply outstanding! The descriptions, metaphors, and modeling of an everyday approach to the inquiry cycle reflect Sagor's deep understanding of the current challenges educators face in integrating action research into their practices."

-- Lauren Childs, School Quality Consultant for Teacher Leadership
"Richard Sagor is one of a very small group of academic educators writing today who authentically and profoundly bridges the gap between research and practice. His conception of action research, developed over decades of experience with thousands of educators, is clear, robust and flexible. This book is both intelligent and accessible, and is fun to read and use." -- Deborah Court, Head of Curriculum Studies

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