Leading Edge Action Research Cohort 3: Off and running

The third and final year of ISP's action research project kicked off in January with 11 new projects and 21 participating staff members. By the time this cohort has concluded its work in the fall, more than 20 % of the school's faculty and staff will have participated in 27 different action research projects over the course of the three-year program.

The topics of this year's action research are:

  • Play-based learning in the early years' classrooms
  • Marketing of ISP Plus, our holiday and weekend extension program
  • Service learning, community relations and communications
  • Improving Spanish Language A students' literacy through creative writing
  • More effective teaching of English grammar
  • Use of educational technology in French language learning
  • Embedding action research in practice throughout the school
  • Increasing the visibility of the IB Learner Profile
  • Conceptual understanding with English language learners
  • Mathematical mindsets
  • The role of the educator, service learning, and use of technology

Cohort 3 will be presenting the results of their research at a full-day conference in October 2017.

Watch this year's participants talk about their projects.

What is action research?

Action research is usually conducted by the professionals who are working on the topic of study, rather than by external, impartial observers. In schools, action research projects can look into problems in learning and help educators develop practical solutions. Action researchers can also focus on particular teaching techniques or programs of their interest, simply to find out more. The goal is to create a simple, practical, repeatable process of iterative learning, evaluation, and improvement that leads to increasingly better results for schools, teachers, or programs. (

The three external tutors who are leading the project at ISP like to describe action research as "systematic enquiry made public." This encompasses the most important elements of the action research process, namely the ideas of formulating a research question based on a practical "tension" or "an itch", creating a plan for data collection and analysis, carrying out the research project according to that plan, and finally sharing the results with others in the school community.

The process of action research is often referred to as a cycle, as described in the image below.

Action research cycle

Why is it important in schools, and particularly at ISP?

In a 2010 publication 'Learning by Doing', a team led by Richard DuFour, a noted educational researcher with focus on collaborative teaching environments, found evidence that action research can bring positive results in student learning. The team approached action research through three distinctive strands: a focus on learning; a culture of collaboration; and a focus on results. These ideas are central to ISP's Strategic Plan, which states that research "should be embedded in student learning and professional practice" (ISP Guiding Statements, Inquiry, Innovation and Learning, Statement 7).

What happens when the Leading Edge project is over?

ISP's IT director, Paul Tagg, is conducting an action research project on the next steps. He will be reflecting on the results and progress so far, and creating a plan for the school's continued efforts in creating a research-led learning community.

Stay tuned for more details about the research conference in October.

Read more about research at ISP