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Action Enquiry

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Last updated 26 October 2012 15:30 by NZTecAdmin

This section contains findings from relevant Action Enquiry projects recently undertaken by adult educators.

Action Enquiry: a quick overview

The Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research provides the following overview of what Action Enquiry is and does.

Action enquiry helps you reflect on and better understand your practices.

For example: What happens when you drop a pebble in a still pond? This is framed like a research question containing a context (pond) and an intervention (the insertion of the pebble). It also implies a timeframe (one instance of it). An action enquiry is therefore about examining the effects of equivalent pebbles (i.e., a specific literacy/numeracy intervention) in the pond of part of your professional practice. Once you make sense of what the evidence tells you (by designing appropriate data collection methods and gathering data), it helps you plan what to do next to add to your knowledge about your practice and its effects.

To illustrate:


Action enquiry is an opportunity to:

  • Examine a particular practice within your work by first identifying the focus question/context/scope
  • Design something to add to the context/topic/lesson to examine
  • Use appropriate data collection methods to document it (such as interviewing/surveying your students’ experiences of this intervention)
  • Analyse the data in the light of the question you begin with
  • Use the findings to adjust, improve, develop, or change what you do next to support literacy and numeracy development.

Essentially, this process is about nurturing self-reflective and self-critical practices and developing literacy and numeracy capacity that can be shared with peers. It is a process of documenting what you do, so you have evidence to base your analysis on. It is also directly based on what you do.

Action Enquiry findings

Action enquiry - Case study from the Department of Corrections

To what extent would a series of sentence-building exercises, support and feedback given at regular intervals over an 11-week period improve sentence-building and writing ability?

Action enquiry - Teaching engineering trade mathematics - Case study from the Department of Corrections

Does using illustrations and drawings help the learner to demonstrate knowledge of how to transpose simple engineering formulas?

2010 Action Enquiry Professional Development Project

In 2010 eleven literacy and numeracy projects, designed by small teams of vocational tutors and other educators in New Zealand ITPs, were successfully carried out as part of a nation-wide Action Enquiry Professional Development project. The overarching project was commissioned by the Department of Labour and the Tertiary Education Commission. Summaries for a selection of the case studies the tutor practitioner researchers produced and links to the full reports are shared here.

Supporting success in hairdressing

Reading strategies for Trades Skills course

Communities of practice

2010 UNITEC Problem Resolving Action Research Project

The action research project described in this paper was part of an initiative to bring about change in the way courses are delivered in the vocational trades area at UNITEC New Zealand.

Blogging and laptops to improve writing



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