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Evaluation and Action Research

Page history last edited by Stephanie Knox 13 years, 9 months ago

Evaluation and Action Research: Lesson Objectives

After this section, participants should be able to meet the following objectives:

  • Define action research
  • Understand the role of action research in peace education 
  • Understand strategies to implement action research 


Guiding Questions

Before you read this section, consider the following question:

  • How can we evaluate for peace education? How can we evaluate ourselves as teachers? How can we evaluate our students' learning? How can we evaluate the impact of peace education programs? 
  • What could I be doing differently to better promote peace in my classroom, school, and community?




Evaluation in peace education can be a difficult task. The traditional system of numeric grading tends to align with the principles of the banking system, by assigning students a number or letter as the basis for their evaluation, and providing little feedback or reasoning for this number. The way students are tested to receive such a number, such as through a test requiring rote memorization, is also indicative of the banking system. Of course, the reality of education is that teachers often times must grade students in a certain way to comply with state or national education standards. However, this grading may not be a good indication of the true changes that are taking place. Action research can be a good supplement to traditional evaluation methods, and can be used to track changes and elucidate new questions for research.


What is Action Research? 

Action research is conducted by people who wish to improve their effectiveness in their particular situation. Action research has been defined as "the systematic study of attempts to change and improve educational practice by groups of participants by means of their own practical actions and by means of their own reflection upon the effects of those actions" (Ebbutt, 1995, p. 170). Action research emphasizes that practitioners need both to understand and to improve the situations they are in (Bryant, 1996, p. 114). Most definitions also stress that action research is an ongoing process. Thus, "many action research projects are started with a particular problem to solve, whose solution leads into other areas of study" (Ferrance, 2000, p. 2). Action research can be done at many levels. Teachers can work individually or with others to evaluate and improve their work.


Why Action Research? How Does it Relate to Peace Education? 

Peace education is about change; it is about transforming all forms of violence into peace. Likewise, action research is focused on achieving peaceful change through analysis paired with action. Teachers engaged in action research look "critically at their social conditions in order to change them" (Fountain, 1999). They reflect on what positive changes they can make, think about what actions would be most effective in achieving their specific goals, and then carry out their plans. After this, they evaluate how well they have achieved their goals and try new strategies in an continuous process of improvement.


Thus, peace educators who are also action researchers are constantly asking themselves a question like the guiding question at the beginning of this section: What could I be doing differently to better promote peace in my classroom, school, and community? After answering this question through critical understanding, these peace educators act on their hypotheses to foster peace. The constant evaluation of one's own teaching and the surrounding social conditions helps teachers formulate realistic goals and maintain their motivation, as well as helping them to be more effective peaceful change agents in their communities (Harris, 2003)


8 Stages of Action Research 

According to Druckman (2005), there are eight stages of action research: 

  1. Define the inquiry: What are the issues? Who are the participants? When and where will it happen?
  2. Describe the situation: What are we trying to do? Why are we doing this?
  3. Collect evaluative data and analyze them
  4. Review the data and look for differences between goals and outcomes
  5. Address these differences by introducing change: What changes would be best?
  6. Monitor the change: What happens after the change is introduced?
  7. Analyze evaluative data about the change: How should we interpret the changes?
  8. Review the changes and decide what to do next:  What do we think about the change? Does it accomplish our goals? Have our goals changed? What should we do next? Should we start a new round of action research or do we need to continue working on this issue? (p. 315)


These stages are perhaps best thought of as a never-ending cycle or spiral (Waters-Adams, 2006). After completing all eight steps, action researchers go back to stage one to reassess the situation and develop new goals, working toward continual improvement of their practice as well as improvement of their societies.


In order to maintain hope, moreover, teachers must also be careful to set realistic goals and to make sure to determine how they will observe the effects of their peace education efforts (Harris, 2005, p. 4). Peace education scholar Ian Harris (2005) advises, "In conducting evaluations, peace educators have to be clear about their objectives. What types of violence are they trying to address and what peaceful outcomes do they hope to achieve?" (p. 12)  It is widely agreed that teachers within their communities are in the best position to answer this question and determine their own objectives.


What Data Could Teachers Use to Evaluate Changes? 

Teachers are encouraged to look for small, yet noticeable changes in their students and perhaps in the larger social context. However, again, they should not hope for immediate, drastic changes. Harris (2005) notes the need to be realistic about what outcomes to expect from peace education: "The effectiveness of peace education, therefore, cannot be judged by whether it brings peace to the world, but rather by the effect it has upon students' thought patterns, attitudes, behaviors, values, and knowledge stock" (p. 19).


Thus, teachers could, for example, test the students' knowledge about conflict transformation or other social groups. They could give surveys to students to see how their attitudes and values change. They could track changes in students' behavior, tracking whether instances of violence have decreased or whether nonviolent techniques have been attempted. Students also could be involved in data collection. Teachers can ask students to look for changes. Teachers and students could be encouraged to write regular journal entries on subjects related to peace and violence. The teacher, possibly with collaborators, could then look at how the journal entries reflect changes toward or away from the teacher's goals for peace. The data that teachers choose to collect will depend upon their particular goals and situations. Nonetheless, teachers conducting action research should generally reflect on evaluating their own teaching as well as on evaluating their students' learning (Harris, 2005, p. 23). They should also begin by asking the difficult question of how they will show (to themselves and to others) that their peace education efforts are having positive effects.



Action research is a practical activity focused on continual improvement. It is led by the teachers themselves, as they identify specific problems, seek to understand how best to solve them by focusing on the areas they believe are most necessary, act on their research, and then reflect on their actions. Action research is a potent form of evaluation for peace education, since it simultaneously improves teacher motivation, improves teacher effectiveness, and contributes to global knowledge about peace education. After completing even one round of this evaluation, teachers share the results of their action research with others and contribute to broader efforts for peace. 


Questions for Comprehension and Reflection

  • What is action research? How can you use action research in your school or community?  
  • Think of the various principles of peace education that you have learned in this curriculum. How can you evaluate students in a way that is in line with these principles?



Bryant, I. (1996). Action Research and Reflective Practice. In D. Scott & R. Usher (Eds.), Understanding Educational Research. London: Routledge. p. 114.


Druckman, D. (2005). "Research for Action and Consulting." In D. Druckman (Ed.), Doing Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.


Ebbutt, D. (1985). Educational Action Research: Some General Concerns and Specific Quibbles. In R. G. Burgess (Ed.), Issues in Educational Research: qualitative methods, p. 170.


Ferrance, E. (2000). Action Research. Providence, RI: Brown University. p. 2. Retrieved from http://www.alliance.brown.edu/pubs/themes_ed/act_research.pdf


Fountain, S. (1999). Peace Education in UNICEF. New York: UNICEF. p. 32-37. Retrieved from www.unicef.org/girlseducation/files/PeaceEducation.pdf


Harris, I. (2003). Peace Education Evaluation. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association of Education Evaluation,

     Chicago, IL, April 21-25. Retrieved from  http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED480127


Waters-Adams, S.  (2006). Action Research in Education. Part One, Section 5. Retrieved from http://www.edu.plymouth.ac.uk/resined/actionresearch/arhome.htm.

Comments (1)

Moeko Takagi said

at 2:37 pm on Aug 18, 2010

Action research is one of favourite research designs in my graduate courses, because it makes a sense. Teachers do it without-out knowing that it actually a part of research and it gives authentic idea of solving problems in the data. Also, teachers can try to do it without any equipment like special statistic program on computer. I like that we include this section!

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