EAST TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY

COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

 

GUIDELINES FOR SENIOR HONORS ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT IN TEACHER EDUCATION HONORS PROGRAM

             The Senior Honor’s ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT represents an in-depth, capstone experience designed to provide TEHP students with opportunities to develop a deeper knowledge of teaching and learning, a closer intellectual interaction with faculty, and more complete preparation for their career goals.  The Senior Honor’s Action Research Project must be written in a manner consistent with the APA style and the model for approaching an action research project provided below. The project should represent a student’s most sustained research as an undergraduate.  It must be academically honest and in full compliance with ethical guidelines.  An approved Senior Honors Action Research Project that has been orally presented in public is required for graduation as a Teacher Education Honors Program student from East Tennessee State University.

 

PREPARATION

            Typically, the Honors Action Research Project is a one to two-year project and completed by (or in) the last semester of the senior year.  Initial preparation for the project should begin with enrollment in the first one-hour service learning course, which is taking during the freshman or sophomore year. Students should follow the approved timetable.  A typical schedule requires that the student complete the majority of all library work, collection of data, plus initial analyses by the end of the junior year, so that the fall semester during the senior year allows ample time for the actual writing of the thesis. Since students typically complete student teaching during the last semester of their senior year, it is important that much of the project work be completed prior to student teaching. Since student teaching places a lot of demand on the student’s time and energy, it will be difficult to complete the project during the student teaching experience. Throughout the project, each student should engage in careful planning, thorough research, thoughtful analysis, good writing, and enthusiastic work.

 

FACULTY MENTORS (COMMITTEE)

            A senior TEHP student should choose a faculty mentor in conjunction with the TEHP Honors Coordinator.  The committee must consist of a mentor professor, Honors Coordinator and a second reader, all from the College of Education.  The project professor, with input from the Honors Coordinator, is responsible for directing the Action Research Project and seeing that the student meets all deadlines and fulfills the expectations of the study. 

 

ACTION RESEARCH FORMAT

             The action research project should be considered a manuscript that may be submitted for publication in a scholarly journal.  It must follow the research guidelines established by the Teacher Education Honors Program.  The final copies must be permanently bound, but they may have a soft cover and/or spiral binding if the student chooses.  Most students have binding done at a photocopying business and have four copies made:  a required copy to be submitted to Dr. Rosalind Gann, Honors Coordinator, a required copy to be submitted to University Honors Programs, a copy to keep, and a copy to be given to the project professor as a courtesy and one copy for the department.

 The action research project will involve the student in the orderly process of collecting data about some aspect of the teaching and learning process relative to a goal or need of that process. The data are not arbitrary, and like other applications of the scientific method, action research is guided by hypotheses and assumptions about the phenomenon under investigation. Unlike other uses of the scientific method, the purpose differs in that knowledge alone  is not the goal, but rather the goal and process of action research involve data collection that is fed back into the system with action taken as a consequence. It should be thirty to forty pages in length, the emphasis being on quality rather than quantity.  Works of fiction, drama, poetry, or personal essay may not be submitted as a senior action research project.

 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

             The honors student should write a 2-3 page description clearly describing the objective of the action research project, its scope and limitations, and a preliminary bibliography of 5-7 sources to indicate that sufficient secondary material exists to support the action research project.  The project description should be signed by both the student and the project professor and should be shown to all faculty members who are asked to serve as readers. This assignment is to be completed at the end of the one-hour service learning course (CUAI-4008).

 RECOMMENDED TIMETABLE

The following timetable establishes deadlines for completion of the action research project. (Completion of IRB training during the sophomore year)

1. September 15 Choose a project professor in consultation with Dr. Gann, Honors Coordinator. (This should be done during the junior year.)
2. October 1 Meet with Dr. Gann and discuss an action research project topic. (Early in the junior year)
3. October 15 Present the first draft of the project to Dr.Gann and the action research professor for review. (Fall Semester-Senior year)
4. December 1 Present the second draft of the project to the project professor, Dr.Gann, and readers. (Fall Semester-Senior year)
5. March 1 In conjunction with Dr.Gann, set a date for a project presentation to be completed before April 15.  Make arrangements for publicity. (Spring Semester-Senior year)
6. April 30 Submit two bound copies of the completed project, signed by the project professor, and Dr. Gann — one for the department and one for University Honors.  You also may want to give a copy to the project professor. 
     
     

            In writing the project description, keep in mind that it is good to be up front with what you will cover and what you will omit.  Dr. Gann will be available to assist you in each step of your project’s development. Specific guidelines and instruction for preparing the project is presented in detail during the third one-hour Service Learning course (CUAI-4008). Please refer to your Check sheet to see the order in which all required, designated courses are should be completed.

 The model provided below is a suggested approach to use as you complete your action research project. The intent of this model is to keep the student (action researcher) on track and provide a structure for completion of the project.

 

A Model for Approaching an Action Research Projectt

 Step 1: A Question or Problem

Step 22: Problem Relevance, Problem Significance

 Step 3: Definitions: Up to this point, the area of concern may have been identified and described with vague generalities or global descriptions. In this third step, the action researcher begins to identify and define in more concrete terms the concepts, the constructs, and the variables involved. When possible, the action researcher defines these by actions or operations preformed.

 Step 4: Review of the Related Literature: Though the problem under investigation is somewhat unique to one action researcher, it is possible that others have encountered similar problems or concerns. Further, it is possible that other individuals have made discoveries that could be of use to the action researcher. Therefore, reviewing the professional literature for evidence of those findings may prove to be a valuable step in intervention planning.

 Step 5: Developing Hypothesis: The intent of action research is to effect change. Therefore, the action researcher attempts to articulate the change anticipated and the conditions under which that change should occur. The hypothesis is simply a predictive statement of what will happen when the action researcher institutes a change in teaching practice. Knowing where we would like to go can help us get there.

 Step 6: Outcome Measures: As action researchers seek to increase their understanding of the impact of specific teaching decisions, measurement of those decisions and their impact needs to be recorded. There is no one clear prescription for the type of measurement or data to be employed (e.g., quantitative only, qualitative, combined, etc.). (Most of the Teacher Education Honor Students have used the descriptive or qualitative methods.)

 Step 7: Methods-Creating a Design: As with any study, in order for conclusions to be considered valid, the researcher must consider the use of a design that provides accurate data collection and interpretation. The action researcher must determine how the research questions can best be assessed. Are qualitative methods such as participant observations with extensive field notes best suited for the research questions, or should both qualitative and quantitative types of data be combined in a planned, meaningful way in order to test the hypothesis?

 Step 8: Data Collection: The types of data the action researcher chooses to collect, as well as the methods employed in collecting these data, will be influenced not only by the nature of the problem but also the interest and talents of the researcher and the demands and opportunities provided by the situation. However, the information gathered must be as detailed and as informative as possible. Action researchers need to remember that they are teachers as well as researchers and that they have a professional responsibility to their students.

 Step 9: Data Analysis: Data analysis is fundamental to understanding the experience of the research. At a minimum, the data need to be organized and grouped with themes, with trends and characteristics noted. When appropriate, action researchers should use visual presentation and descriptive statistics.

 Step 10: Interpretation and Practice Decisions: A keystone of action research lies in its link with practice decisions—an applied outcome. In reviewing the data, the teacher as action researcher balances research significance with practical relevance. Having answered the question What happens if…, the action researcher can then answer questions such as What does knowing what happens man to my students? To me? To my professional decision making or to my current teaching?

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