CTU Reviewing Action Plan Dis

Project Action Plan

Your readings for this unit emphasize how to reflect on the findings of a case study in order to take action. Consider the results of the data collection and analysis you completed on your chosen study for the Unit 5 assignment. Based on your findings, you will now develop the action plan for your Action Research Project, following the steps outlined below.

The 1–2 page action plan you complete for this discussion will become the basis for the Action Plan section of your final project assignment. Review the course project overview and the Unit 9 instructions for the final project assignment, focusing on the Action Plan section, for further context on this required project component.

You will attach your action plan to this discussion as a Word document, in order to exchange it for peer review. Then, in your initial discussion post, you will briefly reflect on your action plan. You will provide feedback on two of your peers’ action plans in your response posts. Once you have completed this discussion, you will incorporate the peer feedback you have received into your action plan, as applicable. You will then add your action plan as a component to your final Action Research Project Report.

Creating Your Action Plan

Create a 1–2 page action plan for your Action Research Project, using a Word document. Use the data you have analyzed from the case study as a roadmap for the solution to your chosen issue. Incorporate the following in your action plan:

  1. Formulate a solution to the issue from your study, based on your findings.
    • Identify the theoretical framework used in the study.
    • Explain what is not working in the program and what the data tells you about why.
    • Make your recommendations on how to improve the issue.
  2. Develop your action plan for getting to your solution.
    • Briefly outline the sequence of steps to be followed in your action plan.
    • State who would address the steps.
    • Explain how the people involved will act and what activities will occur.
  3. Explain how your plan will continue past its initial implementation and be reassessed as part of the action research cycle.
    • Explain how the plan will be monitored and supported.
    • State who is responsible to complete these activities, and when.

Reviewing Your Action Plan

For your initial discussion post, reflect on the action steps you have created, addressing the following:

  1. Briefly present to your peers the highlights of your action plan.
    • Briefly describe your action plan step sequence.
  2. Evaluate your planned activities.
    • Assess how you will implement your plan.
  3. Distinguish the strengths and weaknesses of your action plan.
    • Consider what modifications to the plan might help to strengthen it.

Attach your Action Plan document to this discussion for your peers to review. Note: For the convenience of your peers, please do not include in this Word document the other sections of the course project that you have previously completed.

Chapter 6 Action Research Ernest stringer pg 167-182

6

ACT

Action Plans—Implementing Sustainable Solutions

CONSTRUCTING ACTION PLANS

Chapter 5 described how analysis enables participants to identify the problematic features and elements of the issue on which research is focused. In the next phase of action research, participants work creatively to formulate actions that lead to a resolution of the problem(s). What can we do, they should ask, that will enable us to achieve better results or a more positive outcome? What steps can we take to ensure that we accomplish the outcomes we desire? Elements and categories that have emerged from the interpretive processes described in the previous chapter suggest key areas or aspects of the situation that need to be dealt with in any plan for taking action. Participants then identify what they will do to gain a more positive outcome and how they will go about the tasks required.

Action plans often can be incorporated into the regular operations of organizational life, so that practitioners may work with students, clients, customers, or colleagues to devise lesson plans, care plans, case management plans, marketing plans, urban renewal plans, and so on. This chapter therefore presents systematic ways of planning and implementing the action plans that distinguish action research from other approaches to inquiry. People often assume that a professional analysis provides the best way of envisioning a problem and that all that is then needed is to provide a “recipe” or prescription that people can follow. The problem with generalized recipe-like solutions is that they fail to take account of the underlying issues that have made the experience problematic for participants in the first place. Recipe-based solutions often are based on the professional expertise of the practitioner and fail to take account of the deep understandings that people have of their own experience and the underlying issues that are a central part of the problem. Professional knowledge can only ever be a partial and incomplete analysis of the situation and needs to complement and be complemented by the knowledge inherent in participant perspectives. This is especially true in situations where practitioners interact with people whose personal history, culture, or social background are markedly different from their own.

Participants, especially the primary stakeholders whose issues are the central focus of the research, participate in planning to systematically devise the tasks and activities that will enable them to achieve a resolution to the issues at the heart of the action research process. The following procedures are based on a framework of action that involves three phases:

  • Planning, which involves setting priorities and defining tasks
  • Implementing activities that help participants accomplish their tasks
  • Reviewing, in which participants evaluate their progress
  • PLANNING

    In the planning phase, research facilitators meet with major stakeholders to devise actions to be taken. As stakeholders devise a course of action that “makes sense” to them and engage in activities that they see as purposeful and productive, they are likely to invest considerable time and energy in research activities, developing a sense of ownership that maximizes the likelihood of success.

    Identifying Priorities for Action

    Sometimes the results of analysis identify a single issue needing attention, and research participants may formulate a plan immediately. Often, however, there are multiple related issues requiring action, so participants will need to make decisions about the issue on which they will first focus and some order of priority for other issues.

    To accomplish this, participants should

  • Identify the major issue(s) on which their investigation focused
  • Review other concerns and issues that emerged from their analysis
  • Organize the issues in order of importance
  • Rate the issues according to degree of difficulty (it is often best to commence with activities that are likely to be successful)
  • Choose the issue(s) they will work on first
  • Rank the rest in order of priority for action
  • Constructing Action Plans

    Participants then plan a series of steps or tasks that will enable them to achieve a resolution of the issue(s) investigated. Each issue is first restated as a goal. For example, the issue of increasing juvenile crime might be restated as a goal: “to decrease juvenile crime.” The features and elements related to this issue, revealed through the processes of analysis, are restated as objectives. The analysis of juvenile crime depicted in Figure 5.3 (in Chapter 5), for instance, suggests that features related to increased juvenile crime include “lack of youth leisure activities,” “poor school attendance,” and “lack of afterschool programs.” These could be stated as a set of objectives: “to develop youth leisure activities,” “to improve youth school attendance,” and “to organize afterschool programs.” Teams of relevant stakeholders should develop a plan for each issue and bring them to plenary sessions for discussion, modification (if necessary), and endorsement.

    A related set of outcome statements provides the means for evaluating the success of the planned activities. Such outcome statements describe the outcomes more clearly—using the previously mentioned objectives, for example, results in outcome statements that answer how many leisure activities have been organized, how well attended they were, and within what time line they occurred; the specific extent to which school attendance is to be improved; and what type of afterschool programs were there, with what attendance, within what time line.

    It is essential that each planning group include a member from each of the major stakeholding groups. The issue of poor school attendance, for instance, should have a team that includes teachers, youth, school administrators, and parents. A simple six-question framework—why, what, how, who, where, and when—provides the basis for planning:

  • Goal (Why)
  • State the purpose of the project—for example, to combat juvenile crime. (This can be defined as a goal statement that describes the broad issue to be addressed.)

  • Objective (What)
  • State what actions are to be taken as a set of objectives—for example, to organize an afterschool program for teenagers and to develop a youth center.

  • Tasks (How)
  • Define a sequence of tasks and activities for each objective. List them step by step.

  • Persons (Who)
  • List those responsible for each task and activity.

  • Place (Where)
  • State where the tasks will be done.

  • Time line (When)
  • State when work on each task should commence and when it should be completed.

  • Resources
  • List resources required to accomplish the tasks. Include funds needed to pay for materials or services or list these separately.

    Action plans should be recorded on a chart or whiteboard so that people can get a clear picture of how they will achieve their goal(s) (see Figure 6.1). They provide a concrete vision of the active community of which they are a part and enable participants to check on their progress as they work through the stages of the project together. Once planning is completed, participants can check that each issue has an action plan and that each person is clear about his or her responsibilities. They can also check the availability of material and human resources required for the tasks they must complete.

    Outcome Statements

    Outcome statements describe what will be achieved—the end result of the activities delineated in the plan. Where objective statements present a list of intentions, outcome statements describe what is actually going to be done. The following examples map out the outcomes for the youth center and afterschool program plans that emerged as actions to be taken to decrease youth crime (see Figure 6.1).

    Youth Center Outcomes

    By June 2, 2008, the Youth Center team will have

  • Obtained permission from the principal and the school board to use the disused independent classroom for a youth center
  • Completed repairs to flooring and repainted the classroom
  • Formulated a plan for the operation of the youth center as a venue for afterschool activities
  • Afterschool Program Outcomes

    By July 3, 2008, the afterschool program team will have

  • Established an art program
  • Identified and engaged a volunteer to run the program
  • Planned the program
  • Obtained relevant supplies and materials
  • Prepared and delivered promotional materials to the school, local youth clubs, sports clubs, and churches
  • Ensured an adequate supply of furnishings
  • A similar set of outcome statements would apply to the other elements of the afterschool program.

    Quality Check

    The heart of action research is not the techniques and procedures that guide action but the sense of unity that holds people to a collective vision of their world and inspires them to work together for the common good. The planning processes detailed earlier provide a clear set of tasks and activities, but they are not complete until these activities are checked against a set of principles. The essence of this part of the planning process is not only to check that the tasks have been described adequately but to ensure that each of the participants is aware of the need to perform them in ways consonant with community-based processes.

    Each participant should have the opportunity to discuss his or her tasks and activities, so that all describe what they will do and the way in which they will go about doing it. Facilitators should assist this process by having participants check their activities against the criteria for the well-being of the people (see Chapter 1). Each person should be sure that his or her tasks and activities are enacted in ways that will enhance other people’s feelings of

  • Pride. Feelings of self-worth (Will these activities enhance people’s images of themselves?)
  • Dignity. Feelings of autonomy, independence, and competence (Are we doing something for people instead of enabling them to do it, either by themselves or with our assistance?)
  • Identity. Affirmation of individuals’ social identities (Are the right people performing the tasks? Are women, for instance, performing tasks related to women’s issues?)
  • Control. Feelings of control over resources, decisions, actions, events, and activities (Can people perform the tasks in their own way?)
  • Responsibility. People’s accounting for their own actions (Are we trusting them to perform the tasks in ways that make sense to them?)
  • Unity. The solidarity of groups of which people are members (Do they have to alienate themselves from their group to perform the tasks?)
  • Place. Places where people feel at ease (Can they do the tasks in their own places?)
  • Location. Locales to which people have historical, cultural, or social ties (Do we need to relocate some of our activities?)
  • Facilitators also need to have people check whether their activities are consonant with the set of principles outlined in Chapter 1, which focuses on

  • Relationships. Are processes encouraging productive working relationships between people?
  • Communication. Are regular times for sharing information included in plans?
  • Participation. Do major stakeholders engage in tasks set in the plans?
  • Inclusion. Are all major stakeholders included in the plan?
  • The time and energy spent on this quality check constitutes a sound investment of personal resources, as it is likely to minimize delays and blockages by ensuring that all stakeholders are acknowledged and respected. The participatory and inclusive relationships enacted in action research provide the benefit of a harmonious, supportive, and energizing environment that is not only personally rewarding but also practically productive.

    IMPLEMENTING

    Collaborative processes often start with a flourish. Much enthusiasm and energy are generated as plans are articulated and people set off to perform their designated tasks. The best of intentions, however, often run up against the cold, hard realities of daily life. Participants in the research process reenter family, work, and community contexts, where responsibilities and crises crowd out new activities. As participants attempt to implement the tasks that have been set, research facilitators should provide the emotional and organizational support they need to keep them on track and to maintain their energy, model sound community-based processes, and link the participants to a supportive network.

    Supporting

    In the early stages of activity, people often find themselves, to some extent, out on a limb. If the preliminary work has included all people affected by the research process—the stakeholders—then the performance of new tasks or different approaches to routine tasks will usually proceed with few impediments. Even so, people usually take risks when they change their usual routines and processes, and sometimes they experience criticism and disapproval. In addition, the best of plans cannot take all contingencies into account, and performing new tasks may turn out to be much more difficult than people had anticipated. To a greater or lesser extent, they will experience feelings of doubt, threat, or anxiety that impede their ability to continue with research activities.

    In these circumstances, the press of continual work and life demands can easily lead to delayed or neglected research tasks. The main job of the research facilitator is to provide the practical support that will enable people to continue their research activities. Support can be provided in many ways, some of which are described briefly in the following paragraphs.

    Communication

    Facilitators should communicate with each participant regularly and organize simple ways in which participants with similar or related tasks can communicate. Such interactions may take the form of prearranged regular visits, telephone calls, arrangements for emergency contact, and informal social contacts—meeting for lunch, a beer after work, and so on. It is important that each person be linked with others so that participants can discuss their problems, celebrate accomplishments, maintain focus, and sustain their sense of identity with the research project.

    Personal Nurturing

    As people work through their assigned tasks, their worlds are often changed in some fundamental way. They sometimes gain a deeper understanding of themselves, their need to trust both their own judgment and that of those around them, and the extent of the risks they are taking. In such circumstances, people often need personal reassurance and affirmations of their competence and worth. Facilitators should be constantly sensitive to the need to provide affirming comments to people engaged in research activities, not in a patronizing or mechanical way but authentically and specifically.

    Reflection and Analysis

    Visits and conversations provide researchers with opportunities to ask questions that can help participants performing tasks describe and reflect on their activities. Such questions may touch on some of the following areas:

  • Relationships. How have people responded to this (new) activity? Are they supportive? Has anyone caused any problems for you?
  • Patterns of work and organization. Can you combine your activities with your work? Does this cause any problems? Do your tasks conflict with other people’s ways of working?
  • Communication. Who have you talked with about your tasks or activities? Have you talked with your supervisor, manager, or administrator? Your fellow workers, teachers, or clients? What have their responses been? Who would be useful to talk with from time to time? Who can support you?
  • Difficulties and solutions. Are you having any problems? Have you overcome them?
  • Progress. How are things working out for you? Have you made much progress? What have people been saying about your activities?
  • Facilitators should not judge the performance of the participants, even if asked to do so. There is a great difference between saying, “Things don’t appear to be going very well” and asking, “How are things going for you?” Facilitators should encourage participants to review each aspect of their tasks, talking through the processes in which they are engaged and touching base on the principles. For example, “Who have you talked with about this? Will you be able to continue with this task? How are people responding to your activities?”

    Assistance

    When participants experience difficulties, research facilitators may need to provide assistance. They can assist directly with some activities, providing or seeking out information, doing small tasks, or acquiring needed materials. Research facilitators should not take over tasks but merely provide sufficient help to enable the participant to initiate or complete them successfully. Researchers need to develop the facility to do things with people and not for them; they need to be especially wary of the temptations that arise when working with others in areas in which the researchers have expertise. It is usually more important that the people involved develop the skills to maintain the process rather than just get the job done. When facilitators take over a job, they implicitly highlight the incompetence of other participants and disempower them in the process.

    Conflict Resolution

    Conflicts, whether minor disagreements or major arguments, are not uncommon in action research. The researcher who has maintained a relatively neutral stance in the research process can take the position of a disinterested party in a dispute. In these situations, the researcher’s mediating role is to assist the parties in conflict in coming to a resolution that is satisfactory to everyone. The task is to manage the conflict so that all parties can describe their situations clearly, analyze the sources of conflict, and work toward a resolution that enables them to maintain positive working relationships.

    Modeling

    The ways in which research facilitators enact their supportive role provide direct cues to other participants regarding their own ways of working. Researchers’ availability and the manner in which they provide assistance and support should implicitly demonstrate community-based processes. Their openness and authenticity should illustrate the difference between a community-based approach and a patriarchal, bureaucratic, controlling style of operation.

    Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in others!”

    As they work with other participants, research facilitators should ensure that their procedures and working styles enact the processes and principles of community-based research. Their conversations can describe their own and other people’s activities, and they should find opportunities to give “gifts”—news, information, snacks, a telephone number, or a flower. As they describe their own activities, research facilitators provide information analytically that demonstrates ways in which people may reflect on their own work. For example,

    I’ve managed to help Mary find someone who can assist her with her project. They’ve already been able to. . . . She says that she’s really starting to feel good about that and intends to. . . . She feels more comfortable now that she’s able to talk with the other people in her office. Next time I see her, I’ll . . .

    Extended discussions provide opportunities for facilitators to pass on information but also to encourage people to reflect on their own activities. Modeling is one of the most powerful means of instituting the social processes inherent in community-based research. The doing is worth much more than the saying.

    Linking

    A support network is a key ingredient in the success of a project. This is true not only for the research process itself but for each of the participants involved. As people plan their tasks and activities, they can nominate the people who are likely to support them and take steps to establish relationships with them. Participants will do much of this work themselves, but the facilitator’s knowledge of the broader context will often enable him or her to link workers with other people sympathetic to their activities or who can provide important information or other resources. Linking participants to a supportive network provides them not only with emotional support but often with organizational and community support.

    Linking participants in networks of support sometimes enables them to engage new people in research activities and extends the breadth and power of the research process itself. When people display interest, it may be appropriate to ask them if they would like to participate in activities or to help research workers perform their tasks. In this way, linking not only extends the support network for individual participants but generates the energy that sustains a community-building process.

    As research facilitators assist other participants in developing supportive links, they should be wary of inserting themselves as permanent intermediaries in the linking process. When they continue to act as “middlemen,” research facilitators inhibit the development of positive working relationships between participants and others with whom they work. They maintain control and increase their own power in the situation at the expense of those they are assisting. Figure 6.2 depicts a situation in which information transfer, discussion, or interaction cannot take place except through the research facilitator. A linking, supportive network, conversely, provides multiple opportunities for exchange, conversation, and consultation (see Figure 6.3).

    REVIEWING

    Participants should meet on a regular basis to review their progress. The plan should be displayed at these meetings, and stakeholders and each of the participants performing tasks should be given the opportunity to do the following:

  • Review the plan (Focus question: Have you had any thoughts on our plan?)
  • Report on progress (How are you doing with your tasks?)
  • Modify sections of the plan, if necessary (Are you having any difficulties? Do we need to change our approach? Do we need to change the tasks you’ve been assigned?)
  • Celebrate successes (What have we achieved?)
  • These activities motivate people by highlighting accomplishments or reassuring them if they have failed to make significant progress; in addition, they provide a context that reinforces their sense of community. As people strive to perform their tasks and report on their successes and struggles, they share their worlds in a real, direct way and, in the process, extend their understanding of the contexts in which they are working.
    These processes also present opportunities for rethinking aspects of the description, interpretation, and planning processes and provide extra support for people experiencing difficulty. Participants may find, for instance, that they require more information, that the tasks they have been assigned turn out to be inappropriate in some way, or that their activities are being blocked. In these cases, the plan will need to be modified to take these exigencies into account.
    The reiterative nature of action research soon becomes apparent. Where people struggle to implement activities derived from a fixed vision or version of their world, they will soon be confronted by the dynamic realities of the context. To the extent that they can construct and reconstruct their vision, taking into account the increased understanding that comes from each reiteration of the process, they will successfully negotiate the complex web of meanings, interactions, and discourses that compose social life.
    EVALUATING
    At some stage, the need for a formal evaluation of the project may become evident. People who contributed funds and personal or political support will probably appreciate some statement or report that provides information about the extent to which progress has been made or desired ends have been achieved.
    Evaluation requires processes similar to those used to formulate joint stakeholder descriptions and interpretations. A full treatment of the process is provided in Guba and Lincoln’s Fourth Generation Evaluation (1989). Evaluation is carried out as a joint construction of stakeholder groups who
    • Place their claims, concerns, and issues on the table for consideration
    • Review information obtained from interviews, observation, documents, and group constructions
    • Resolve claims, issues, and concerns
    • Prioritize unresolved items
    Tasks and activities that have resulted in a satisfactory resolution are delineated, and those that are unresolved become subject to continued action. As Guba and Lincoln (1989) point out, different values held by stakeholders will lead to disagreement about priorities for further action. The research facilitator’s task is to negotiate these points of disagreement and seek ways to reformulate the issues so that participants can agree on the next steps to be taken.
    This method of evaluation is consonant with the constructivist philosophy inherent in action research. It defines outcomes in ends that are acceptable to stakeholders, rather than those whose degree of success may be measured against some set of fixed criteria.
    Sometimes there is considerable pressure to provide a “definitive” evaluation, especially from people who wish to use numbers to justify expenditure or their personal involvement. Numbers, however, are illusory and usually reflect a distorted vision of the research process. Nevertheless, there are occasions when some quantitative information is useful and may be properly included in an evaluation process. We may provide numbers of students enrolled in a course, youth attending a program, mothers attending a child care clinic, and so on. Numbers by themselves are misleading, however, and often oversimplify the state of affairs. They also risk reifying—creating an illusory preeminence about—certain aspects of a project or program. People may focus on tables that quantify relatively trivial features or disregard significant features of the project. Research participants should be wary, therefore, of engaging in forms of evaluation contrary to the principles of action research. (A number of appropriate evaluation strategies are summarized by Yolanda Wadsworth in her book Everyday Evaluation on the Run [2011].) CONCLUSION
    This chapter describes the phase of a research project where “the rubber hits the road.” It is the point at which we start moving and where action occurs; where we set out to do something about the problems that have been the driving force behind all the activity. I have described routines that suggest ways to work with stakeholders to plan tasks and activities, implement them, sustain them, and evaluate them. The end point of the process should be the resolution of the problems with which we started.
    Social life is rarely as simple as that, however. We usually find that myriad issues emerge when we start to poke at a problem, which can transform the problem itself and our orientation toward it. Steps taken to solve one problem sometimes take the lid off a whole range of related issues and problems. Further, the broader the context in which a problem is held, and the greater the number of stakeholders, the greater the complexity of the task confronting researchers. Chapter 7 focuses on these more complex situations and provides guidance to researchers who wish to engage deep-seated problems within diverse social, organizational, and community settings.
    Generally, however, clearly articulated plans based on systematic and inclusive processes of inquiry have a high probability of achieving successful results. The investment of the time required to enact action research is amply rewarded by the significant outcomes that usually result. Where people say, “Oh, I’d like to be able to do that, but it would take too much time,” they usually reinscribe the problem by using standard routines or procedures that have a long history of failure. Quick-fix solutions may give the impression that “we’re doing something about this,” but such approaches almost always fail to deal with the underlying issues that create the problems in the first place. By systematically identifying the significant elements that make up people’s experience of problematic events, and planning concerted action that deals with the real issues affecting people’s lives, we can achieve effective solutions that improve the quality of those lives.
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