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Question 1

As you consider the construction of your data gathering instruments, use the following questions and explanations by Sagor (2005) to guide you.

• What are three data sources will you use for your Action Research?
• Do you need a matrix for data triangulation?
• Is the process I am using to answer my question clear enough that my students (clients) can understand it?

When collecting and analyzing data, action researchers can do a great deal to ensure the validity and reliability of their findings by using a process called triangulation. The term triangulation refers to the use of multiple independent data sources to corroborate findings. The purpose and necessity of corroboration is the same for the action researcher as it is for the trial lawyer. A trial lawyer knows that to convince a jury of the accuracy of a legal theory, it helps to have more than one witness; the more individual witnesses whose testimony supports the theory, the more credible the theory becomes. (Sagor, 2002, p. 16-18)

Educational action researchers usually have a wide variety of data sources available to them. Keep in mind that you will be completing your Action Research in this five-week session. You cannot rely on data sources that will not be available during your research time (e.g. Standardized test scores that will not be available now). It is better to use formative assessments that will support you in your practice on a day-to-day basis. Some of the most common data sources are the following:

Existing data

• School/teacher records
• Referrals to the principal
• Attendance records
• Tardies
• Classroom behaviors (talk outs/negative behaviors)
• Number of detentions (per student)
• Number of suspensions (per student)
• Student work/portfolios

Observation data

• Photographs
• Videotapes
• Diaries, logs, journals
• Rating scales/rubrics
• Data obtained by shadowing students through the school day

Probes

• Tests
• Surveys
• Interviews
• Focus groups

You, as the researcher, will describe the instruments and data gathering techniques used. You must establish criteria for selecting the data as they relate to the scope of the problem, and the breadth and depth of the study should fit into the 1 to 2 week time frame of the project.

A helpful tool for planning data collection and triangulation is a triangulation matrix—a simple grid that shows the various data sources that will be used to answer each research question. The matrix provides the action researcher with some assurance that the potential for bias (which is always present whenever a single source of data is used) won’t take on undue significance. Figure 2.3 illustrates how a completed triangulation matrix for a study on student editing might look.

Figure 2.3. Triangulation Matrix—Study on Student Editing

 Research Question Data Source #1 Data Source #2 Data Source #3 What is the relationship between student enjoyment of writing and the quality of their editing? Student survey Analysis of first, second, and final drafts Comparison with work on previous assignments In what ways will providing students with a copy of a scoring rubric impact the quality of their finished papers? Student interviews Contrast between revisions made in assignments without rubrics and ones with rubrics Third-party assessments of finished products To what extent are the finished papers different when students use peer editors? Student interviews Contrast between revisions made in assignments without peer editing and ones completed with peer editing Third-party assessments of finished products

From: Sagor, R. (2002). Guiding school improvement through action research. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. p. 8-16

Data Analysis
During data analysis, the teacher researcher engages in a systematic effort to search for patterns or trends in the data. There are many ways to accomplish this. Regardless of the particular technique employed, during the analysis phase the researcher tries to systematically cut, sift, and sort the data into piles of like or similar objects. The key purpose of this systematic sorting and categorizing is to assist in answering the following two questions:

• What is the story told by my data?
• What might explain this story?

Once the researcher believes the process has resulted in adequate answers to those two questions, it is time for one final return to the graphic reconstruction. This time the researcher takes a critical look at the initial Action Research goal and asks how it may need to be revised based upon the analysis of the data (Sagor, 2002, p. 8-16).

Submit the data gathering instruments you have selected and the instruments you have constructed along with an explanation. You may use a matrix like the one above to give an explanation of your data collection tools or you may choose to give your overview as a narrative. Attach any data gathering instruments (surveys, pre tests, etc.) to the post.

Question 2

Prior to development of your Action Plan it is important to understand the makeup of the participants for your Action Research project through a description of the demographics of your study.

On the Action Research Documentation Form the demographics section is comprised of three subsections: Demographic Data, Target Group, Baseline Data.

Answer the questions for each subsection below in a paragraph and post the three paragraphs to the Discussion Board.

Demographic Data

• Where/what is the research site?
• Who is directly involved?
• What statistics will give a clear understanding of the context and culture of the research site?

Target Group

• Who are the students you are trying to impact?
• How do you think this strategy or content focus will benefit the target group?

Baseline Data

• What are the baseline data that support your choice for this area of focus?
• What patterns or trends do you see in the data?
• What is your proof that an issue exists in this focus area?

Reminders:
Do not use names as identifiers for the research site or participants.
You may not depend solely on standardized test scores as your baseline data.
Make sure to cite any sources you use in researching the demographics.

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