Drawn to Science Education: Studying Science Teaching and Learning through Drawings

What is action research?

What is action research? Image of students using a microscope.

Action research is done by teachers to understand their own teaching and students. The most effective action research results in opportunities to improve learning and engagement.

When we ask "What is action research?" it is important to keep in mind that action research is different from research conducted by academicians at universities. The goal of academic research is usually to conduct research that will generalize to larger populations. In contrast, action researchers are more interested in gaining knowledge that can be directly applied to their own teaching context. As Geoffrey Mills states, "action research is research done by teachers for themselves" (Mills, 2007). While action researchers often publish and share their findings with others, this is not the primary purpose of their research.

Benefits of Action Research

There are many benefits to conducting action research but it does require time and energy, something that is at a premium for busy teachers. Our goal here is to provide you with examples and ideas about how drawings can be used as data to learn about your students and your own teaching in order to make the process more effective and rewarding.

Action research can:

  • lead to positive change in your classroom and school.
  • offer professional development and continual improvement.
  • provide opportunities for collaboration with colleagues.
  • be a part of a successful masters degree.
  • create an opportunity to reflect on your own practice.
Image of students at a desk learning science.

Drawings and Other Sources of Data for Action Research

Action researchers will often collect data from several sources to strengthen their analysis and conclusions. In our research we used interviews and written text in addition to drawings. Using multiple data sources, termed triangulation, can also include surveys, student grades, homework completion, instruments measuring student motivation, and so on. As you think about how you will collect data for your action research project, consider what sources are available and how these will help you address your research question. Often a combination or data sources will lead you to stronger and more compelling conclusions.

There's much more to action research than presented here. To read more about "What is action research?" please visit our Action Research Resources section.