Action Research Communities : Professional Learning, Empowerment, and Improvement Through Collaborative Action Research book cover
1st Edition

Action Research Communities
Professional Learning, Empowerment, and Improvement Through Collaborative Action Research

ISBN 9781138057951
Published August 21, 2017 by Routledge
134 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Action Research Communities presents a new perspective on two current and proven educational practices: classroom-/school-based action research and professional learning communities. Implementation of one or the other of these practices often results in a variety of possible benefits for the teaching–learning process, for student achievement, and for overall school improvement. While these might seem to be separate, isolated practices, the author has taken the beneficial aspects of each practice and merged them into a cohesive and potentially powerful concept, coined "action research communities."

Each of the two concepts or approaches (action research and professional learning communities) is presented and discussed in detail. Because they both focus on local-level improvement of educational practice and share several overlapping features, the two concepts are then merged into a single entity—action research communities, or ARCs. These professional learning communities, with action research at their core, hold an immense amount of power and potential when it comes to enhanced professional growth and development for educators, increased student achievement, school improvement, and educator empowerment. ARCs essentially capitalize on all the individualized benefits and strengths of action research and of professional learning communities, and merge them into a single educational concept and practice. ARCs have the potential to help educators everywhere experience:

•a common and collective focus and vision;

• sustained collaborative inquiry;

•individualized, customizable—and meaningful—professional growth; and

•true empowerment that comes with this form of collaborative, inquiry-based, and reflective practice.

Practical guidance for the development and implementation of ARCs is also provided, by focusing on ways in which professional educators (teachers, administrators, support staff, etc.) can implement, sustain, and extend the impact of their respective action research communities. Specific roles for district administrators, building administrators, and teachers are presented and discussed in depth, as are ways that ARCs can be used both to deepen professional learning for educators and to improve student learning.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Merge Action Research and Professional Learning Communities?


Introduction: Why merge action research and professional learning communities?

1: What is Action Research?

Description of Action Research

Action Research vs. Educational Research

What Action Research Is and Is Not

Professional Benefits of Action Research

The Process of Conducting Action Research

The Process in Action — An Example

Step 1: Identifying and limiting the topic

Step 2: Gathering information

Step 3: Reviewing the related literature

Step 4: Developing a research plan

Step 5: Implementing the plan and collecting data

Step 6: Analyzing the data

Step 7: Developing an action plan

Step 8: Sharing and communicating the results

Step 9: Reflecting on the process

Important Takeaways from Chapter 1


2: Professional Learning Communities

What is a Professional Learning Community?

Characteristics of PLCs

Shared Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals

Collaborative Culture with a Focus on Learning

Collective Inquiry into Best Practice and Current Reality

Action Orientation: Learning by Doing

Commitment to Continuous Improvement

Orientation Focused on Results

The Challenge of a Changing Culture

Teaching and Assessing in a PLC

Important Takeaways from Chapter 2


3: The Action Research Model for Transformational Innovation

What is the Action Research Model for Transformational Innovation?

The Five Components of the Model

Data-Driven Educational Decision-Making

Data, Data, and More Data

Thinking Differently


Professional Reflection

One Additional (Sub)Component…

Implications of the Action Research Model for Transformational Innovation

Important Takeaways from Chapter 3


4: Putting It All Together: Action Research Communities

TI-in-Ed + PLC = ARC

Specifying the Purposes and Functioning of an ARC

Roles for Teachers in ARCs

Roles for Building Administrators in ARCs

Roles for District Administrators in ARCs

Important Takeaways from Chapter 4


5: Where Do We Go From Here? Sustaining and Growing Your ARC

Ways to Sustain ARCs

Link Reform Efforts to Existing Practices

Focus on "Why," Then on "How"

Align Actions with Words

Be Flexible, but Firm

Build a Coalition, But Don’t Wait for Unanimity

Expect Mistakes…and Learn from Them

Learn by Doing, Not by Additional Training

Short-Term Victories…and Celebrations

Ways to Extend ARCs

Integrating Technology

Student Engagement

Grant Funding

Mini-Grants to ARC Participants

Systems of Incentives

Components of Personnel Evaluation Systems

Action Research / Innovation Conferences

Implementation of an ARC Represents a Process

Important Takeaways from Chapter 5


6: Using ARCs to Deepen Professional Learning and Improve Student Achievement

Action Research Communities as Mechanisms for Professional Learning

Action Research Communities as Mechanisms for Improving Student Achievement

Important Takeaways from Chapter 6



Appendix: Action Research Mentor Portfolio Templates


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Craig A. Mertler is an Associate Professor and Director of the EdD Program in Leadership & Innovation at Arizona State University. He has been an educator for 32 years, 22 of those in higher education, and 6 as an administrator. He is the author of 22 books, 8 invited book chapters, and 20 refereed journal articles.


Within the text there is an excellent blend of theory and practice to be found, along with much author insight (borne out of Dr Mertler’s own classroom and research-based experience) which make for an instructional and engaging read. The text itself can be enjoyed by a wide audience, including those who are well-versed in action research methodology, as well as the novice or beginner. It is my sincere and fervent hope that this text will inspire many teachers, school leaders and district administrators to adopt and sustain the ARC model as espoused by Dr Mertler.

Dr. Gregory Hine, Senior Lecturer, School of Education, The University of Notre Dame Australia