Action Research


Action Research is a method of systematic enquiry that teachers undertake as researchers of their own practice. The enquiry involved in Action Research is a process involving the following key steps (McNiff, 2013. p. 90).

We review our current practice;

  • Identify an issue we wish to investigate;
  • Ask focused questions about how we can investigate it;
  • Imagine a way forwards;
  • Try it out an intervention), and take stock of what happens (evaluation);
  • Modify our plan in light of what we have found, and continue with the action;
  • Evaluate the modified action;
  • Reconsider what we are doing in light of the evaluation. 

This can then lead to a new action–reflection cycle.

The start of the process is usually an issue or situation that, as a teacher, you want to change. You will be supported in turning this 'interesting problem' into a 'researchable question' and then developing actions to try out. You will draw on the findings of other researchers to help develop actions and interpret the consequences.

As an action researcher, or teacher-researcher, you will generate research. Enquiring into your practice will inevitably lead you to question the assumptions and values that are often overlooked during the course of normal school life. Assuming the habit of inquiry can become an ongoing commitment to learning and developing as a practitioner. As a teacher-researcher you assume the responsibility for being the agent and source of change.


McNiff, J. (2013). Action research: Principles and practice. London: Routledge.

People and expertise

We have highly experienced educationalists and researchers who are able to support you with school and classroom based action research. This support can take a range of forms from providing whole school input on Action Research to individual mentoring with classroom projects. We have found that setting up small, collaborative working groups is both supportive and effective, but please contact us to discuss your individual needs.

Find out about our experts and some suggested topics based on their Action Research activities.

Starting out

When schools are starting out on action research we are happy to tailor our Continuing Professional Development offering to focus on supporting teachers and allied education professionals to develop as action researchers. We can also potentially award credit for educational research work under our advanced offering of postgraduate, professional development programmes. In the first instance a member of staff at the School of Education can:

  • come to facilitate a staff meeting as a one-off prompt to start a project;
  • help you to design and undertake a research enquiry;
  • visit your school on a regular basis to support a collaborative working group.

Please contact us to further discuss your needs.

Action research at master's and doctoral level

The following routes into advanced study are available:

  • Master's - this is a one year full-time or three to five year part-time taught programme. A dissertation has to be carried out as part of the master's programme and this could involve action research.
  • Doctoral - we offer study at doctoral both through individual research for a PhD and through the largely taught EdD programme. Action Research is a regular feature of both doctoral programmes.

Case studies

The key feature common to all Action Research projects is that it involves practitioner researchers planning for and reflecting on the outcomes of a change in their practice in an ongoing cycle of plan-act-reflect. Some examples follow:

  • Piloting research with a local secondary school to explore through observation the activity of learners’ non-compliance.
  • Using a Participatory Action Research approach to develop therapeutic interventions for young people who experience social and emotional difficulties in a secondary school.
  • Using an ethnographic approach to investigate the ways in which teachers’ use the multilingual and multicultural resources of migrant children and their families as assets for learning in school.
  • Supporting a collaborative group of early career teachers in science in developing and evaluating their practice in differentiation to include learners with English as Additional Language and learners with Special Educational Needs.


Details of master's and doctorate tuition fees.

Contact us

Michelle Graffagnino
Tel: 07920510572

Edit this page