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Participatory Action Research for Educational Leadership

Participatory Action Research for Educational Leadership
Using Data-Driven Decision Making to Improve Schools

July 2007 | 248 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Leadership Solutions

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Alana James has a new twitter feed titled AR4Everything, which covers action research and reports on interesting facts.

"Finally we have a data-driven text on participatory action research for educational leaders. Through thoughtful examples and guided instruction, this text makes the case that the complex issues of today and tomorrow require multifaceted, rigorous, and results-oriented processes best undertaken through partnerships between educators and the communities they serve."

Darlyne Bailey, Dean and Assistant to the President, University of Minnesota

"This book includes a very useful hands-on approach to developing a PAR project. It is written in a manner that is accessible to teachers, it is detailed enough to provide clear descriptions, and the exercises at the end of each chapter help readers to implement the new material."

—Elizabeth Grassi, Regis University

"In a clear manner, this text provides the tools necessary to conduct collaborative action research in order to create needed change in our classrooms and schools. Using this book, teachers, administrators, parents, and students can become active participants in the movement toward educational change."

Emma Fuentes, University of San Francisco

The participatory action research (PAR) process discussed in the text represents the next evolutionary stage for action research and practitioner research in education. Authors E. Alana James, Margaret T. Milenkiewicz, and Alan Bucknam provide a readable overview of the PAR process similar to professional learning communities in schools. This fresh approach to participatory action research fully integrates process with research methodology. The results of the original PAR study and continued work with educational leaders propose that this "And/Both" approach ultimately produces the effect that school leaders seek and appreciate.

Key Features

  • Guides the reader through the PAR steps with a graphically illustrated process: The book's design reaches out to visual learners with graphic elements while employing a research logic model that helps ensure rigorous research methodology.
  • Provides reflective questions preceding each section: The questions increase the reflective practices and routines of the reader as appropriate to the PAR process.
  • Presents real-world examples: Practitioner stories make the lessons real and alleviate the emotional unease that comes from tackling research practices for the first time.
  • Offers tasks for working both in teams and as individuals: These tools aid participatory teams in working toward consensus and strong research designs.

Intended Audience

This is an ideal core text for graduate courses such as Action Research for School Improvement, Research for Educational Practitioners, Practitioner Research, and Teacher as Researcher in departments of education. It can also be used as a supplemental text in other research methods courses and in data-driven decision-making courses.

Meet author Alan Bucknam!

Welcome to PAR for Educational Leaders

Our Approach to PAR

Our Readers


How to Use This Book

Final Notes

1. The Participatory Action Research Model
Reflective Questions

Section 1: PAR---A Tool for Change

PAR as a Tool for Educational Leadership

Reflective Questions

Section 2: Research and Action in the PAR Process

Reflective Questions

Section 3: Participatory Research as a Tool to Address Adaptive Change

An Example of PAR Use in the Classroom

Task 1.1: Beginning a Reflective Journal


2. The Tenets of PAR: Ethics, Purpose, and Logic
Reflective Questions

Section 1: Ethics

Ethical Elements

Task 2.1: The Formation of an Ethical Plan for PAR Projects

Reflective Questions

Section 2: The Power of Purpose

Format for Purpose Statements

Task 2.2: Multiple Journal Entries Define Purpose

Reflective Questions

Section 3: Logic Models

Task 2.3: Planning Your First Draft of Your Logic Model


3. Starting to Research
Reflective Questions

Section 1: Asking Good Research Questions

Task 3.1: PAR Practitioners Reflect On and Share Their Initials Ideas for Research Questions

Surfacing Assumptions

Task 3.2: Surfacing Assumptions

Reflective Questions

Section 2: Informal and Formal Reviews of Literature

Task 3.3: The Mini "Lit Review"

Reflective Questions

Section 3: A Brief Overview of the Basic Research Methods

Qualitative Methods

Quantitative Methods

Reflective Practice

Task 3.4: Reflective Journal Practice


4. Qualitative Data Collection
How Is Qualitative Evidence Useful?

What Makes Qualitative Evidence Difficult?

Reflective Questions

Section 1: Qualitative Data Collection Methods

Data Collected Directly in Words From People: Interviews and Focus Groups

Data Collected Through a Process of Change: Reflective Data/Field Notes/Anecdotal Accounts

Data Collected During the Event(s) Being Studied: Observations/Student Work/Logs

Task 4.1: Collecting a Variety of Qualitative Data

Reflective Questions

Section 2: Maximum Success and Rigor

Managing Time and Resources

How to Make It More Rigorous

Introduction to Mixed Methodology

Task 4.2: Data-Planning Matrix


5. Qualitative Analysis
Reflective Questions

Section 1: Stages in Analyzing Qualitative Evidence

Graphic Organizers





Rubrics and Multiple Observers

Similarities and Differences

Reflective Questions

Section 2: Validity, Credibility, and Reliability in the Analysis of Qualitative Data

Task 5.1: Practice Analysis of Data


6. Quantitative Evidence
Data Found in Schools

Standardized Tests

Reflective Questions

Section 1: Questions Answered by Quantitative and Mixed Methods Evidence

Observations and Time Studies

Surveys or Questionnaires

Descriptive Statistics

Variance and Correlation

Complex Questions

Reflective Questions

Section 2: Quantitative Data Collection


Questionnaires or Surveys


Time Series

Reflective Questions

Section 3: Analysis and Statistical Information

Descriptive Analysis


Survey Analysis

Percentages and Mean

Standard Deviation

The t-Test


Reporting Results

Task 6.1: Preliminary Quantitative Analysis


7. Taking and Measuring Action
Reflective Questions

Section 1: How to Know What Actions to Take

Three Continuums of Action

The Continuum of Actions From Emancipatory to Professional Development

The Continuum From the Individual to the Organizational

Examples of PAR to Foster School Improvement

Teachers or Support Staff in a Classroom or Whole-School Setting


Whole Schools or School Districts

Reflective Question

Section 2: Efforts at Change

The Challenge of Inertia

Defensive Behaviors

Task 7.1: Analyzing Force Fields and Defensive Behaviors

Reflective Questions

Section 3: Measurement

Formative Evaluation

Focus and Responsiveness

Determining Variables With Which to Measure Short-Term Outcomes

Measuring Outcome Steps


8. Cycles of PAR: The Power of the Iterative Process
Reflective Questions

Section 1: Messy Cycles

Reflective Questions

Section 2: Iterative Growth





Time Line and Group Process for Significant Success

Task 8.1: Using the Forward Planner

Reflective Questions

Section 3: Theoretical Understanding Bolsters Action and Visa Versa


9. Final Analysis and Results

Reasoning and Writing

Standards for the Final Analysis

Reflective Questions

Section 1: Validity

My "Real" World--or Yours?

Theory Building and Testing

Reporting the Analysis Process to Others

Task 9.1: Building a Preliminary Report on the Analysis Process for Others

Reflective Questions

Section 2: Credible Interpretation

Graphic Organizers

Compelling Arguments


Reflective Questions

Section 3: Reliability


Reflective Questions

Section 4: Passionate Conclusions

Task 9.2: One Sentence and Three Words


10. The Final Report
Reflective Questions

Section 1: The Formal Report

The Formal Academic Report

Reflective Questions

Section 2: The Formal Presentation

Prior to Beginning


Openings and Closings

Content and How to Present It

Reflective Questions

Section 3: The Informal Individual Report

Reflective Questions

Section 4: The Community Report


11. PAR for Educational Leadership
Reflective Questions

Section 1: A Creative Tool in Environments of Chaos and Complexity

Counteracting Educator Mobility

Inclusion: Both/And Rather Than Either/Or

The Need for Flexibility

Prediction: The Study of Outliers

Feedback Loops

Reflective Questions

Section 2: A Tool for Adaptive Leadership

Creating a Holding Environment

Avoiding Implementation Failure

Reflective Questions

Section 3: PAR and Educational Reform Efforts

Professional Learning Communities and Communities of Practice

What Is Required?

The Development of an Inclusive Leadership Structure


About the Authors
Key features
  • Clear process through both the PAR steps employing a research logic model throughout. This benefits the graduate student or educational leader by leading them to data driven outcomes that are valid, credible and reliable
  • Graphic elements guide the reader through the process and aid the visual learner in keeping track of the concepts behind the theory.
  • Reflective questions precede each section. This increases the reflective practices and routines of the reader as appropriate to the PAR process.
  • Tasks, written for both groups and individuals, aid participatory teams in working towards consensus and strong research designs
  • Practitioner stories make the lessons real and ease the emotional unease that come from tackling research practices the first time.

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