Supporting the Teaching of Action Research (STAR): A Story of Shared Purpose and the Power of Collaborative Community Action Research

By STAR Community

    Supporting the Teaching of Action Research (STAR): A Story of Shared Purpose and the Power of Collaborative Community Action Research

    About the Author

    STAR Community
    The STAR-Community
    San Diego, CA, US
    1 Article Published
    STAR Community

    Supporting the Teaching of Action Research Community (STAR-C) is one of the many Action Research Communities (ARCs) that are a part of the Action Research Network of the Americas. This community is led by educators supporting action researchers in seven countries. The authors of this article include:
    • Clotilde Lomeli Agruel, Professor-Researcher at the Faculty of Educational Pedagogy and Innovation (FPIE) of the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC), Mexico
    • Carlos Chiu, Director, Colegio de Ciencias, Peru
    • Angela Gallagher-Brett, Professor London University, UK.
    • Christine Lechner, Coordinator of “Action Research Communities for Language Teachers", ECML, Austria.
    • Matthew Moors, Co-convenor of MAPCoP - an action research community of practice of alumni from the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, UK.
    • Laura Irene Dino Morales, Teacher-Master's Researcher at the CIFE University Center, Chihuahua, Mexico
    • Linda Purrington, Co-Director, Center for Collaborative Action Research, USA
    • Geitza Rebolledo - Universidad Pedagógica Libertador. Doctorado de Educación Ambiental UPEL IPC. Caracas, Venezuela
    • Margaret Riel, Director, Center for Collaborative Action Research, USA
    • Ronald Morgan, Associate Professor in the Educational Counseling Program at National University, USA
    • Kimmie Tang, Associate Professor in the School of Education, Biola and CLU, online from Ottawa, Canada
    • Teri Marcos, Professor of Educational Administration, National University, USA
    Some of these educators have taught action research courses for many years and continue to support action research in retirement and others are just beginning their tenure supporting action researchers. We have met regularly during and between ARNA conferences for the past five years to think about strategies, issues, and resources to support the teaching of action research. Our website is the central station for all of our projects and provides forms for contacting us. In the spirit of action research, we continue to evolve.

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    The Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA) was created in 2012 by five “network initiators” with a vision to support and promote a wide variety of forms of participatory research. The goal was to increase knowledge production, dissemination, and democratization for critical, social, educational, and environmental issues in the Americas and beyond.

    Action Research Communities (ARCs) were formed within ARNA to provide members of the Network with opportunities to experience smaller but active groups of people who want to share ideas, strategies, practices and resources around a specific topic. They evolve with the needs and interests of ARNA members.

    Supporting the Teaching of Action Research Community (STAR-C) is one of the ten ARCs that currently operate within ARNA.  STAR-C is led by professors of action research from six countries. These educators have met monthly over the last few years to think about strategies, issues, and resources to support the teaching of action research. In the spirit of action research, the community continues to evolve.

    STAR-C Synopsis

    The STAR community was formed in 2017 using a distributed leadership framework and Learning Circle approach organized by Margaret Riel. The STAR community has developed through a series of actions, or “Acts.”

    Act 1: The Learning Circle and Website Construction (2017)

    We began with a Learning Circle structure focused on the collective creation of the STAR website. We selected a set of topics that were essential in teaching action research and shared information about the ways that action research is positioned in different programs.

    Act 2:  Dual Language and Social Media (2018)

    We centered on the development of the Spanish translation of the website. Clotilde Lomeli Agruel took the lead on this effort. We also forged a closer partnership with the Action Research Tutorials (ART) and with the Social Publishers Foundation (SPF) joining the Action Research Tutorials’ Facebook Group to provide a link to a larger community of action researchers.

    Act 3:  Extended Reach-Blog and Newsletter (2019)

    As the website translation was taking place, we worked to extend our reach to involve more of the ARNA community. The STAR Blog (first published in April 2019) and The STAR-C Newsletter (published beginning in May 2019) are two central means of outreach.

    Act 4: Extended Sharing-The Chats (2020)

    We changed the name of the group from STAR ARC to STAR-C, by trimming the double “AR.” With the name change, we redesigned the banner of the website. We also added one more interactive component, STAR-C Chats. We now alternate monthly meetings between STAR-C Learning Circles and STAR-C Chats around topics central to teaching action research. 

    Act 5:  The Future (2022)

    We will be presenting at ARNA 2022 as we have in each of the ARNA conferences.  We continue to look for new ways to support the teaching of action research.

    STAR-C Beyond the Synopsis and Behind the Scenes


    Behind the scenes of STAR are the dedicated community members who share the belief that action research can bring about transformational change through the simultaneous process of action and research. When STAR first began, each member was teaching and leading action research in K-12 and higher education communities. Members brought knowledge, diverse skill sets, and decades of experience to share with one another. The website has biographical information about the current members.

    Staging and Story

    Collectively, the STAR Community posed a central guiding question – What resources would best support the teaching of action research and how might they be shared?  This central guiding question is the foundation for what became four acts of action and research occurring over four years and now continuing into a 5th year. We continue with more detailed information about each of these acts.

    Act 1: The Learning Circle and Website Construction (2017) 

    Our STAR-C Learning Circle and greater community represent multiple cultures and languages. Rather than have a website created by a webmaster, we set up a google site that could have multiple authors. Using the structure of a learning circle, each person in the circle was to be the webmaster of one of the topics that we brainstormed as major challenges in teaching action research. These are the challenges that we used to anchor our written discussions.

    We also added information about the different ways in which action research was embedded in our university programs. To provide a resource to teachers who are beginning to teach action research, we posted our syllabi and invited others to join us. This provided models for how different universities embedded action research into graduate instruction. Our goal in all of these efforts was to provide rich resources to support people who might be teaching action research for the first time. Our group included some bilingual (English and Spanish) speakers but also monolingual speakers in both English and Spanish.  We managed to work in both languages making use of google translate and the chat option in the zoom room for translation. Most of those who are not bilingual are using computer programs to develop more fluency in the other language.

    Act 2:  Dual Language and Social Media (2018)

    Sharing our work at the ARNA 2018 conference in San Diego, we met a number of potential new members who wanted to make our resources available in Spanish. Clotilde Lomeli Agruel joined our learning circle and helped us to create a companion website in Spanish. While it is difficult to keep two separate websites updated in both languages, we are committed to making the materials available in both English and Spanish in order to be more inclusive. We are fortunate to have bilingual members within our Learning Circle who volunteered to provide Spanish translations. Clotilde Lomeli Agruel leads this effort and also provides the translation for the STAR-C Newsletters.

    In our effort to share more widely we partnered with the Center for Collaborative Action Research with their online Action Research Tutorials and have joined the social media Facebook group.

    Act 3:  Extended Reach-Blog and Newsletter (2019)

    STAR-C Blog. The Blog was initiated by Kathy Shafer in 2019 with the two-fold aim of presenting issues of importance for the practice of teaching and learning action research and providing a hub for discussion both for the Newsletter content and for other topical issues. The “New Action Research Community” went online on the 10th of April, 2019. The STAR Blog is currently coordinated by Christine Lechner, Kathy Shafer, Kimmie Tang, Ron Morgan, and Matthew Moors.

    Since the launching of the Blog, 13 pieces have been published, some about general issues around supporting the teaching of action research and others linking to Newsletter articles and related discussion questions. The Blog is about written dialogues bringing commentators into discussions with authors. Contributions focus on the teaching of action research basics such as, data collection, ethics, building teachers’ confidence through action research, rewarding and challenging experiences of action researchers, supporting novices, and social publishing.

    There is a creative thread connecting the Blog items to the STAR-C Newsletter articles and related discussion questions, which challenges readers to shift their thinking on critical issues. This is an element that makes the Blog interesting for both those new to action research and also for experienced action researchers looking for new angles.

    Since Spring 2020, there has been a clear thematic focus on online teaching including teaching action research online. Here again, the pieces offer fresh ideas and encouragement to colleagues. In addition, it offers a space where written dialogues bring commentators into discussion directly with authors. The discussions have been enjoyable and thought-provoking. Our future goals are to extend our reach and develop more dialogue around the blog topics and questions.

    STAR-C Newsletter. The STAR-C Newsletter was proposed in order to provide a more in-depth look at important Action Research themes and to provide an opportunity for authors outside of STAR-C to become involved by sharing their perspectives and work. The newsletter is published 2 times a year in English and Spanish, featuring articles and sharing news about resources, upcoming conferences, and events. Teri Marcos, Linda Purrington, and Clotilde Lomeli Agruel serve as the Editors.

    Challenges in Teaching Action Research  (May 2019), the first newsletter, focused on issues to consider when structuring action research programs as well as strategies and resources for teaching or learning more about action research.

    Coaching Mindset and Project Ideas (November 2019) shared articles that are closely related to coaching, mindset, and action research project ideation.

    Learning Circles (May, 2020) issue described the Learning Circle, which is a collaborative structure for group work with distributed leadership, and described how it might be used in teaching and learning.

    Action Research and a Pandemic (November 2020) contained eight articles highlighting firsthand international perspectives about the impact and associated challenges of the pandemic and ideas for supporting the teaching of action research.

    Supporting the Teaching of Action Research, (November 2021) investigated the current literature that supports action research approaches to teaching, learning, and researching, particularly during a global pandemic.

    Act 4: Extended Sharing – The Chats (2020)

    The idea for STAR-C Chats emerged from Learning Circle conversations as a means for more dynamic interaction with the greater AR community and as a way to further promote the STAR-C website, tutorials, newsletter, and blog participation. The Chats are moderated and coordinated by Linda Purrington, Matthew Moors, and Geitza Rebolledo. We hold a STAR-Chat every other month, live, and record the chats for sharing alternating with our STAR Leadership meetings. Many of the themes for the Chats have been connected to the STAR-C website topics.

    Our First STAR-C Chat, From Values to Research Questions (February 2021), was focused on different strategies as well as concerns in helping students find their overall inquiry question. Margaret Riel highlighted some activities from the action research tutorials (Tutorials 3 and 6) that use a value search as one way to help new researchers frame the question that will guide them through their cycles of research. We also explored ways to move from an inquiry question to the first cycle question.  Teri Marcos and Geitza Rebolledo also provided examples from their teaching.

    In the Second Chat, How to Teach Reflection Skills to Novice Action Researchers (April, 2021), Matthew Moors created a metaphorical trip through the forest in England to help us think more deeply about teaching reflection. He suggested a method of slowing his mind to feel connected to the earth and the sky. He called this relaxation in nature “forest bathing” and continued to use nature to help participants think about how reflection supports action research. Geitza Rebolledo called on a number of scholars to define the process of reflection as thinking deeply from experience to practice. She pointed us to different paradigms, epistemologies, and ethics around reflection. Teri Marcus showed the work on the STAR-C website around the topic of reflection. Each of these short discussions was used to stimulate a group discussion around the practice of reflection.

    The Third Chat, Ethics and Action Research (August 2021), was focused on ethical issues in action research, extending a topic that was raised at our session at the Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA) conference. Since this was one of the topics we explored as part of the resources for teaching action research we decided to make it the focus of our Chat. Matthew Moors led the sessions by reviewing resources already on this website and adding some additional resources. One was the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics:

    In the Fourth Chat, Technology and Data Collection (Oct 2021), Donna Benson described how the collection, organization, and analysis of data can be a stumbling block both for new action researchers and for teachers of Action Research. Using no-code software tools such as the Microsoft Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power BI suite – can make it easier to work in teams to collect and organize data in a format that can easily be retrieved and analyzed. Donna described how she utilized these tools with a group of university students working on community-based food security initiatives. This led to a wider discussion of the role of templates and technology in organizing and supporting groups of students with different projects.           

    Our Fifth Chat, Education and Action Research for Sustainability (Dec 1, 2021), featured Dr. Franz Rauch, Professor at the Institute of Instructional and School Development (IUS) at the Alpen-Ada University Klagenfurt (Austria) who began the CHAT by describing action research as a toolbox for education for sustainable development and transformative learning. He shared the connection between the Institute’s projects on sustainable development and research activities in teacher education and schools. Carlos Chiu, Director of Colegio de Ciencias in Peru, introduced educators from Brazil and Kenya. Educator Jorge Assad and his student team from Sao Paolo, Brazil described sustainable projects at their high school, including composting, recycling, and aquaponics. Educator Mary Gabriel from Kenya spoke about students’ voices at COP26 and the importance of world leader support and resources for education and action for sustainability. Ideas were shared and discussed including student networking, students as global citizens, disseminating student work, and awareness-raising.

    Our sixth Chat, Understanding the Social/Emotional Implications of the Global Pandemic (Feb 2022), was moderated by Dr. Aubrey Uresti and Dr. Suzy Thomas, the Co-Chairs of Action Research Communities of the Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA). They engaged the participants in online activities to explore some of the social-emotional issues of learning and how these might collide with online learning. They discussed ways to overcome isolation, increase productivity and normalize feelings of grief related to personal and professional losses during the pandemic. To learn more about this topic and Drs. Uresti and Thomas see the article they co-wrote for Social Publishers Foundation, Action Research Communities: Reimagining Networking and Collaboration in a Global Pandemic – Social Publishers Foundation.

    In our most recent Chat, we discussed the relationship between democracy and action research  (April, 2022) and how action research can help to preserve democracy. Dr. Lonnie Rowell, co-initiator of ARNA and Co-coordinator of ARNA’s Knowledge Democracy Initiative, challenged us to connect world events with our teaching of action research. Those of us who value action research and all forms of participatory and practitioner research find ourselves at critical crossroads. Lonnie explained that to the extent that we understand that the spirit of democracy lies at the heart of our approaches to knowledge production and dissemination, we understand that the terrible plight of Ukraine is our plight as well. He asserted that “The effort to destroy democracy, if it is allowed to proceed unchecked, will without a doubt come knocking at the doors of those who encourage, nurture, teach and engage in participatory research around the world.” This chat focused on the challenges of this moment and what’s to be done. See video, slides, and a reading list.

    Act 5:  The Future (2022)

    We have participated in every ARNA conference since we began in 2017. For the ARNA conference last year we made a video of the STAR-C activities. This helped us share our history with others in video format, especially useful for online sessions. This year we have submitted a proposed session for the 2022 ARNA Conference in Cedar City, Utah proposing further dialogue around Democracy and Action Research. Perhaps ideas for collective large-scale action research focused on democracy will evolve.  We also hope to explore new ideas for the future of the STAR-Community and innovative ways we can continue to support those who prepare new action researchers.

    To cite this work, please use the following reference:

    Agruel, C. L., Chiu, C., Gallagher-Brett, A., Lechner, C., Marcos, T., Moors, M., Morales, L. I. D., Morgan, R., Purrington, L., Rebolledo, G., Riel, M., & Tang, K. (2022, May 13). Supporting the Teaching of Action Research (STAR): A Story of Shared Purpose and the Power of Collaborative Community Action Research. Social Publishers Foundation.

    Copyrighted by Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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