Beyond Actions

Psychology of Action Research for Mindful Educational Improvement

by Norijuki Inoue (Author)
©2015 Textbook VIII, 207 Pages
Series: Educational Psychology, Volume 28


Beyond Actions is a new breed of book on action research, going beyond procedural descriptions of action research and discusses psychological processes and epistemological challenges involved in planning and conducting action research. The book discusses in depth key concepts of action research and the ways in which these concepts actually contribute to the improvement of educational practice by assuming the viewpoint of educators. Dr. Inoue offers ample opportunities for readers to deeply reflect on personal, social, cultural, and philosophical foundations of practice improvement efforts and develop a comprehensive understanding of action research. Beyond Actions is targeted to educators, educational researchers, principals, and students taking graduate-level courses in action research, educational research methods, educational psychology, education foundations, educational leadership, and other related fields as well as anyone seeking a new methodology for mindful educational improvement.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. Introduction: The Nature of Action Research
  • Research and Practice
  • What Is Action Research, Really?
  • 1. Actions Matter
  • 2. Context-Specific Research
  • 3. Multiple Cycles and Phases
  • 4. Inclusion of You as Research Target
  • 5. Reflections Matter
  • Mindfulness
  • Chapter 2. Examining Assumptions: New Psychology of Research
  • Becoming an Educational Researcher
  • Paradigm Wars
  • Positivistic Paradigm
  • Objective Reality
  • Generalizability
  • Reductionism
  • Dichotomous Thinking
  • Knowledge and Assumptions
  • Taking a Balance Mindfully
  • Chapter 3· Crafting Research Questions: Journey from Within
  • Questioning the Familiar
  • Your Action Research Question
  • Avoiding Self-Fulfilling Research
  • Social Activism Research
  • Role of Personal Theories
  • Role of Academic Theories
  • Journey from Within
  • Emptiness of Self
  • Chapter 4· Validity of Inquiry: Mindful Action Research Design
  • Validity
  • Construct Validity
  • Construct Validity × Action Research
  • Internal Validity
  • Internal Validity × Action Research
  • External Validity
  • External Validity × Action Research
  • Action Research Validity
  • Process Validity
  • Ironic Validity
  • Educational Validity
  • Catalytic Validity
  • Layers of Action Research Planning
  • Chapter 5· Grasping Needs of Reality: Objectivity vs. Subjectivity
  • Reality Check
  • Subjective Biases
  • Needs Assessment
  • Observation
  • Choosing the Situation
  • Knowing What to Observe
  • What You Do during the Observation
  • Unit of Analysis
  • The Why Question
  • Inter-Rater Agreement
  • Interview
  • Interview Protocol
  • Interview Logistics
  • Structured vs. Unstructured Interviews
  • Questionnaire
  • Performance Tests
  • Reflection Journal
  • Your Data
  • Quantitative Data
  • Qualitative Data
  • Data Analysis
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Mixed Methods
  • Reflection on Needs Assessment
  • Next Step: Action and Assessment Planning
  • Chapter 6· Letting Others Live within You: The Spirit of Working Together
  • Overcoming Dilemmas
  • The Social Origin of Human Development
  • Setting Up Intersubjective Collaborations
  • Brainstorming
  • Creating Ba
  • Community of Practice
  • Kizuna
  • Collaborative Professional Development
  • Cultural Dimension of Action Research
  • Chapter 7· Your Actions and Beyond: The Path to Self-Transformation
  • Layers of Action Planning
  • Systemic Thinking
  • Action Components
  • Action Sequence
  • Assessment Plan
  • Quantitative Assessment Plan
  • Qualitative Assessment Plan
  • Triangulation and Beyond
  • Explicit Knowledge and Tacit Knowledge
  • Tacit Knowledge Development
  • Takumi
  • Omoi
  • Chapter 8· Reflection, Ego, and Mindfulness: A Way of Letting Go
  • Beyond the Comfort Zone
  • Encountering Challenges
  • Goal Orientation
  • Engaging in Reflections
  • Two Types of Reflections
  • Reflection-on-Action
  • Reflection-in-Action
  • Moving on to the Next Phase
  • Saturation of Understanding
  • Subjectivity and Reflection
  • Dealing with Your Ego
  • Psychodynamics in Action Research
  • A Way of Letting Go
  • Path to Self-Transformation
  • Chapter 9· A Meta-Framework: Redefining Educational Research
  • The Big Picture
  • Action Research and Educational Research
  • An Upside-Down Framework
  • Who Is in Command?
  • The Issue of Power
  • Gridlocks in Our Minds
  • Japanese Lesson Study
  • Co-Creation of Goals
  • Planning a Study Lesson
  • Teaching the Study Lesson
  • Reflecting on the Observed Lesson
  • Embracing New Cultural Epistemologies
  • Emphasis on Educational Improvement
  • Intersubjective Space as Key Arena
  • Handling Subjectivity Mindfully
  • Sense of Responsibility
  • Yin and Yang
  • A New Meta-Framework of Educational Research
  • Chapter 10· What’s Next? Completing the Circle
  • Your Action Research Paper
  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Research Context
  • Statement of the Problem
  • Needs Assessment
  • Guiding Theories and Research
  • Input from Your Action Research Team
  • Phase I
  • Phase II
  • Phase III, IV, V …
  • Overall Reflections
  • Presenting Your Action Research
  • Beyond Actions
  • References
  • Index
  • Series index


This book became possible thanks to many people whom I met over the years. First, I would like to thank my students at the University of San Diego (USD) whose ideas and action research projects inspired me and motivated me to write this book. Without having numerous interactions with my students about their ideas, experiences, and aspirations, this book would have never been possible. Second, I would like to thank my fellow faculty members at USD—many of whom also advise action research projects. I would never have come up with many ideas that I discussed in this book without being a part of intriguing dialogues about educational research and advising action research projects with my colleagues.

I would also like to thank many people I met at conferences and symposia across the globe. I am especially indebted to people I worked with in the annual Action Research Conference in San Diego. Particularly, I feel lucky to have met many brilliant individuals whose ideas and personhood truly inspired me—Bill Torbert, Susan Noffke, Jack Whitehead, Jean McNiff, just to name a few. I would also like to express my gratitude to those at Japanese universities and schools who helped me deepen my understanding about Japanese lesson study and its underlying epistemology—Tadashi Asada at Waseda University, Takuya Matsuura and Norio Ikeno at Hiroshima University, Satoshi Takahashi ← vii | viii → at Shukutoku University, Keiko Hino at Utsunomia University, Nagomi Kawada and her colleagues at San Diego Minato School, Satoshi Suzuki as well as other Japanese educators and action researchers I met over the years. Without their guidance, this book would not have been possible. I would also like to express my special gratitude to my fellow educators who were at Osaka Fuse High School and educated me about what it means to be an educator during my early years of teaching.

I would like to thank Greg Goodman, the series editor, who kindly guided me through the process of this book project as well as Chris Myers, managing director of Peter Lang, who has patiently given me extensions for ensuring the quality of this book. I would also like to thank Karen Saleni, Miriam Voth, and Jamie Lenke, my graduate students at USD who proofread the lengthy book manuscript during their busy time of graduate study. I am also thankful to Jeerawan Ketsing at Kesetsart University, who came from Bangkok to USD as a visiting scholar, for giving me many hints about action research advising and patiently serving as a sounding board during my book writing in her yearlong stay in San Diego. I would also like to express my gratitude to Sara Nishi, who contributed beautiful drawings of plants for this book. And all of these encounters would not have been possible without generous support from Fulbright Japan, which awarded me the Graduate Study Grant to study in the United States about 20 years ago.

Finally, I would like to thank my family. My children, Mayuko and Ray, served as walking dictionaries when I was not sure about some of the English expressions used in this book. Mayuko willingly proofread the early version of this manuscript in great detail, and Ray was ready to check my English anytime he was asked. This book greatly owes to my wife Masami who supported me through the never-ending cycles of book writing. Now this book has become another thing we have accomplished together.

I would like to dedicate this book to my family and all the educators teaching in classrooms with nothing but good intentions to help students grow and develop.

Noriyuki Inoue

← viii | 1 → · 1 ·


The Nature of Action Research

Research and Practice

An important feature of this book is that it challenges the traditional notions of educational research and its relationship to educational practice. This book helps you develop a deep understanding of action research by discussing its process and the fundamental assumptions that differentiate it from other research methodologies. In doing so, the book introduces various East Asian concepts as conceptual tools for you to examine and overcome a variety of limitations of the traditional Western approach to educational research.

Because you picked up a book with education and research in its subtitle, I assume you are an educator looking for new ways to improve your teaching through research. You may have been teaching for a while with a certain set of beliefs, but may have unresolved questions. You might have explored available resources and opportunities to find the answers, but now you are looking for something drastically different from what the existing resources offer. If so, this book is a perfect match for you.

Or it could be the case that you are an educational researcher interested in action research as a new research methodology. You might be wondering how educational research can overcome limitations inherited from the traditional scientific paradigm. This book is primarily targeted to those who ← 1 | 2 → actually teach in schools, but it would be highly informative and valuable to any university faculty, educational researchers, and graduate students in education because many discussions in this book are relevant to key contemporary discussions that take place in the field of educational research.

Whether you are an educational researcher or a K–12 teacher, I will assume you are an educator and will call you as “you” in this book. My belief is that discussing action research from a personal viewpoint is the most fruitful way to understand the richness of this research methodology. Furthermore, I will regard you as an “educator” rather than a “teacher” because action research will lead you to not only think deeply about teaching academic subjects but also mindfully cultivate and promote students’ intellectual, social, and personal development. With that said, here is the most important assumption employed in this book:

You are the most important researcher to study and improve your practice.

As an educator, you are in an intellectual profession that requires constant inquiries into your practice. Teaching is a highly complex phenomenon that cannot be improved by simply following how-to lists or procedures handed down by someone outside of your practice context (Darling-Hammond, 2010; Zeichner, 2010). It requires you to carefully plan and carry out your actions to nurture students’ holistic development. This book introduces various aspects of action research, but it assumes that it is you who can make the difference in your own context. You are the one who understands your practice best and cares about your students most. Who else can be a better researcher to study and improve your practice?

In this book, you will be guided through various processes of planning and conducting action research. In doing so, this book assumes that the best way for you to learn is by actually going through the research process in your context. Action research is a particular type of methodology that is difficult to learn in depth without actually experiencing its process. Throughout these chapters, you will be asked to plan and conduct your own action research project. In this process, you will be asked to reflect not only on your actions in your practice but also you—your assumptions, beliefs, identity, values, developmental trajectory, etc., as an educator.

Throughout this book, you will encounter a series of reflective questions titled “FOR YOUR REFLECTION.” Here, you will be asked to think about fundamental issues that you would benefit from considering before moving on to the next section. Please remember that there is no single or right answer to each of these questions. These reflective questions are inserted throughout the ← 2 | 3 → book as opportunities for you to critically examine your assumptions, beliefs, and understanding of important issues related to action research. Some of these questions can be trick questions, that is, questions intended to uncover beliefs and assumptions that you might not be aware of. In a way, these questions could serve as mirrors of your mind: Through these mirrors, you can see new and different ways of viewing and approaching your educational practice. With this in mind, here is the first set of questions for you:

FOR YOUR REFLECTION: What kind of educational research do you think is most beneficial for your own practice? What do you think should be the ideal relationship between educational research and educational practice?

What Is Action Research, Really?

When you hear the term research, you might think that it is about doing some kind of experiment and typing lots of numbers into computers in a security-guarded lab. That is indeed a stereotypical image of research that people tend to have, but what we mean by research in action research is drastically different from that picture.

What is research, really? When we say research, it implies a systematic activity to answer a research question through collecting data and deriving answers from that data. Consequently, your action research starts with you asking questions about your practice and then moving on to designing and conducting research to answer your question. Its process is characterized by professional and personal inquiry as you critically examine and improve your teaching through the eyes of a researcher.

Action research is often viewed as a relative newcomer to educational research, but historically speaking, its origin dates back to the first half of the twentieth century. Kurt Lewin (1890–1947), a German-born psychologist who contributed to the advancement of social, organizational, and applied psychology, used the term action research for the first time in a paper published in 1946. He introduced the term to suggest a new kind of research on “the conditions and effects of various forms of social action, and research leading to social action” (Lewin, 1946, p. 35). Because of this, Lewin is viewed as the father of action research (see Coghlan & Jacobs, 2005). But since its early years, action research has been developed and theorized in ways much more diverse than Lewin’s initial conceptualization.

← 3 | 4 → Currently, action research is viewed as a family of research that involves attempts to improve professional practice through multiple cycles of actions and reflections (Herr & Anderson, 2005; Noffke, 1997, 2009; Somekh & Zeichner, 2009). There are many different versions of action research, but they all have a set of characteristics that are distinctively different from the traditional research or natural scientific research that people stereotypically view as “research.”


VIII, 207
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (January)
epistemological challenges viewpoint practice
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 207 pp., num. fig.

Biographical notes

Norijuki Inoue (Author)

Noriyuki Inoue is an associate professor of educational psychology and research methods at the University of San Diego, School of Leadership and Education Sciences. He received a MEd from Harvard University and a PhD from Columbia University.


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