Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Where there is need, there is a room for action research-Juanjuan Zhao

          A group of Chinese students from Xi'an Jiaotong University visited UC a couple of months ago and got a chance to be introduced to action research by Dr. Mary Brydon-Miller. Their reaction was 'Oh, this is action research'. Apparently, it is a new term for them, but not a completely strange land they have never set a foot in.As Vicki Stieha said in her blog last week , many people begin conducting action research long before they know what action research is.

          At the beginning of my doctoral program in Educational Studies, I was very curious if action research is applicable in China and how could I conduct action research in foreign language teaching. I was worried that I could not conduct action research if I go back to China after graduation, thinking there might be challenges in a different context, especially when quantitative research is enjoying popularity at the moment. I even got a kind 'warning' from a Professor in our department who said seriously to me that I got to consider if I can be hired by any university if I bring action research method. Upon hearring that, I admit that I did panic a bit. Because there are the fundamental differences between the East and the West in ideology, belief, and logics, etc.

          Then I started to do a research on action research in China and there I found a center for educational action research in foreign langauge teaching in Ningxia Teachers University(http://www.actionresearch.net/writings/moira.shtml.)initiated by Professor Jean McNiff and Professor Jack Whitehead in U.K. This center was opened in December, 2003 and is the only center of its kind in the world. It is a collaboration between colleagues of the English Department in Guyuan and at the Hui Zhong (Moslem Middle School) in Haiyuan and it also represents international collaboration.Its ultimate purpose is to improve the learning experience of all children in China.

          So the point I am trying to make here is that action research is applicable as long as there is need for change and improvement. It is a method that is both strongly applicable and flexible.As teachers, we are constantly confronted with difficulties and challenges in our teaching. Sometimes we complain and feel troubled without trying to work out with our students or the other teachers-collaborative inquiry. When we really take time to reflect on teaching and to choose a problem which we then study by applying the Lewinian cycle of diagnosing/action planning/action taking/evaluating/specifying learning (Baskerville& Wood-Harper, 1996), we might be open with a new world.
          The other thing we should bear in mind is that there is no fixed model of action research. We should not think that the task of experienced action researchers is to teach others to do the exact action research they have been conducting, especially when a different context is involved. Instead, the task of experienced action researchers it to enable and facilitate people to develop their own models to bring together action and reflection, theory and practice'(Reason&Bradbury, 2001.p.1).That's why I like the idea of the center in foreign language teaching in China because their next short-term goal is to
evolve a new form of action research, which they call 'Collaborative Living Educational Theory Action Research with Chinese Characteristics'.


Baskerville, R., &Wood-Harper, T. (1996). A critical perspective on action research as a

          method for information systems research. Journal of Information Technology, 11,


Reason,P.&Bradbury,H.(2001). Introduction:Inquiry and Participation in serach of a

          world worthy of human aspiration. In P. Reason& H,Bradbury(Eds.), Handbook for

          action research: Participative Inquiry and Practice(pp.1-14). London:Sage.

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