Two different methods have emerged in the field of research methodologies: action research and traditional research.
Each has its own purposes and characteristics. Understanding the differences among these methods is essential for both researchers and practitioners.
Let’s examine the subtle differences between action research and traditional research.
Traditional research is characterized by a quest for conclusions. Researchers construct theories, conduct controlled experiments, and abstain from intervening in the implementation phase of the solutions derived from their studies.
Most people agree that the goal of traditional research is to draw conclusions.
First, a theory is developed; second, statistical analysis is necessary; and third, the researcher stays out of the solution’s implementation phase.
Traditional research involves face-to-face interactions between researchers and participants, proving more effective than online research. Widely used for qualitative research, it captures participants’ emotional reactions. Theory development and testing occur separately from the research process. Knowledge in teaching and learning is often developed outside schools or by individuals not directly involved in education.
Traditional research methodologies encompass both quantitative and qualitative approaches. In quantitative research, statistical analysis is employed to dissect observed components and draw comparisons with other elements. On the other hand, qualitative research delves into exploring the spectrum of participants’ behaviors, often conducted with small groups and leading to descriptive analysis.
Examples of Traditional Research
1. Medical Clinical Trial
A controlled experiment testing the efficacy and safety of a new medication using a randomized control group and a placebo group.
2. Laboratory Experiment in Physics
Investigating the properties of materials under specific conditions, adhering to a predefined hypothesis and controlled variables.
3. Survey on Consumer Preferences
Conducting a large-scale survey to gather quantitative data on consumer preferences for a particular product or service.
In action research, academics collaborate with organizations in an active manner to produce knowledge that is actionable and long-lasting, as well as workable answers to challenging socioeconomic issues.
Action researchers are always looking for ways to test new approaches and unusual data collection techniques within the framework of epistemology and the social sciences in order to better their local communities and organizations.
Developed by psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1940s, action research is a dynamic process that integrates theory, practice, and community-school-based participants to address practical issues. It aims to improve teaching and learning through an extensive and repetitive process involving collaboration among educators, parents, community activists, and university-based colleagues. This type of research is conducted with the purpose of advocating for changes or influencing policies, directly benefiting school practitioners and the district involved.
Action research is a pragmatic and real-world method employed in professional inquiries within a social context. Educational professionals may utilize this approach to assess the effectiveness of an existing teaching method or explore the viability of a new approach for potential classroom use. Action research can be carried out through mixed methods and can be conducted by an individual or collaboratively with other professionals.
Examples of Action Research
1. Improving Classroom Teaching
A teacher collaborates with colleagues to identify and implement new teaching strategies, continually reflecting on and adjusting their methods based on student outcomes.
2. Community Health Initiative
Researchers work closely with a local community to assess health needs, develop interventions, and implement changes to improve overall community health.
3. Organizational Change in a Business
A company employs action research to identify and address operational challenges, involving employees in the process of problem-solving and continuous improvement.
Traditional Research vs. Action Research
- Traditional research is centered on drawing conclusions and forecasting outcomes through the examination of theories within controlled laboratory environments. In contrast, action research contributes to the progression of knowledge at the individual, organizational, and community levels by actively engaging in the development of solutions for socio-economic and business-related challenges.
- In traditional research, the research question originates from theoretical discussions and existing literature. On the other hand, in action research, the research question is formulated based on practical experiences and actions, taking into account institutional parameters.
- In traditional research, data collection methodologies are inflexible and predominantly managed through a statistical data analysis approach. In contrast, action research employs mixed data collection approaches with a focus on qualitative data collection to validate the analysis and findings. Action research emphasizes collaboration to instigate and oversee changes in an organization and address real-world challenges.
- Traditional research typically targets academia as its primary and most common audience. In contrast, action research has a broader and more inclusive audience, resulting from a collaborative cyclic process involving the researcher, the organization, and the community.
- In traditional research, knowledge is produced through the testing of theories. In action research, knowledge is derived from practical experience, making it more sustainable and closely linked to achievable actions.
- In the traditional research approach, the research role is directive and often viewed as an individualistic approach. In contrast, in action research, the researcher actively engages in facilitating the research project, taking on the roles of a practitioner, catalyst, and collaborator with the organization throughout the entire process.
- In traditional research, the learning methodology is primarily disciplinary-oriented, emphasizing specific academic disciplines. On the other hand, in action research, the learning process is mutual, involving both the researcher and the organization. This approach emphasizes integration between disciplines, fostering a collaborative and interdisciplinary learning experience.
- In the traditional research approach, the action on findings is minimal and may not occur, or if it does, it might take place in isolation. On the contrary, in action research, actions are incorporated into the mainstream and integrated within institutional processes and systems. In action research, the researcher actively engages in facilitating the research project as a practitioner, playing a hands-on role in the implementation of solutions.
- In the traditional research approach, the results are owned by the researcher, group of researchers, or academic institution. In contrast, in action research, results are characterized by shared ownership, involving collaboration and joint responsibility among the researcher, the organization, and the community.
|Feature||Action Research||Traditional Research|
|Purpose||To address practical issues and create change.||To draw conclusions and contribute to theory.|
|Participant Involvement||Collaborative involvement of stakeholders (teachers, administrators, etc.).||Limited participant involvement.|
|Research Question||Derived from practice, action-oriented.||Derived from theoretical frameworks and literature.|
|Data Collection||Mixed methods, emphasis on qualitative data.||Rigid methodologies, often statistical analysis.|
|Audience||Inclusive (researcher, organization, community).||Mainly academia.|
|Knowledge Generation||From practical experience, sustainable.||From testing theories, less directly applicable.|
|Researcher’s Role||Facilitator, collaborator, and practitioner.||Directive, often considered individualistic.|
|Learning Methodology||Mutual learning, integration between disciplines.||Disciplinary-oriented learning.|
|Action on Findings||Integrated within institutional processes.||Minimal, may take place in isolation.|
|Ownership of Results||Shared ownership among stakeholders.||Researcher or academic institution ownership.|