1. As you consider the construction of your data gathering instruments, use the following questions and explanations by Sagor (2011) to guide you.
- What are three data sources will you use for your AR?
- Do you need a matrix for data triangulation?
- Is the process I am using to answer my question clear enough that my students (clients or participants) 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. Some of the most common data sources are the following:
- School/teacher records
- Referrals to the principal
- Attendance records
- Classroom behaviors (talk outs/negative behaviors)
- Number of detentions (per student)
- Number of suspensions (per student)
- Student work/portfolios
- Diaries, logs, journals
- Rating scales/rubrics
- Data obtained by shadowing students through the school day
- 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.
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
Adapted from: Sagor, R. (2002). Guiding school improvement through action research. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. pp. 8-16.
Submit at least one of the data gathering instruments you have selected, or at least one of the instruments you have constructed along with an explanation. Please be sure to include your explanation for what you have chosen or designed – focus on how you see it connecting to your proposed project/research question. Attach the data-gathering instrument (surveys, pre tests, etc.) to the assignment submission.
Please also include a triangulation chart showing the ideas you have for the remainder of your data collection. You will need to develop the other tools for the final proposal as well, but for this assignment, you are submitting one to show your thinking and to get feedback about your ideas in the triangulation matrix. After you get instructor feedback on this, you can continue to develop your ideas and add them to your AR proposal.
2. 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?
These two questions help us to frame out what can be learned from the data analysis process. While you will not formally implement your proposal during this course, you need to consider how to work with the answers that your data offers. Asking these kinds of questions and exploring the themes that can arise from the work can direct your interpretations. Once the researcher believes the process has resulted in adequate answers to those two questions, it is time for the researcher to take a critical look at the initial AR goal and ask how it may need to be revised based upon the analysis of the data (Sagor, 2002, p. 8-16).
Using the triangulation matrix that you created on #2 as a base, brainstorm some ideas for how you think you would analyze the data that results from your collection methods. Be conscious of the approach that your data suggests (qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods) and make appropriate selections. Share your ideas for the analysis strategies. Be sure to include 2-5 possible themes that you expect to emerge from the data that you would collect. Remember that these are thoughts about where you might end up at the end of the work based on the experiences of others and your familiarity with your context and professional experiences.
Sagor, R. (2002). Guiding school improvement through action research. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. pp. 8-16.
Note that all should relate to how teachers leadership skills affect students’ motivation.
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