Conducting Collaborative Action Research: Challenges and Coping Strategies

  • Lian-Jiang Jiang


As the term implies, collaborative action research (CAR) refers to action research conducted in groups, which could be a cohort of practitioners or a combination of practitioners and researchers. As a qualitative stance toward research inquiry, CAR grounds itself in the tradition of action research, which is also known as action learning, teacher inquiry, and practitioner research or action science. While there has been extensive literature on what action research is (e.g., Burns in Collaborative action research for English language teachers. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999; Nunan in Action research in language education. Edge and Richards, 1993) and how it has been applied in various fields, including information science research (Simonsen in Aconcern for engaged scholarship: the challenges for action research projects. Scandinavian J Inf Syst 21(2):111–128, 2009), health profession (Kember in Action learning and action research: improving quality of teaching and learning. Kogan Page Limited, London and Sterling, 2000), new media (Hearn et al. in Action research and new media: concepts, methods and cases. Hampton Press Inc., Cresskill, NJ, 2009), and vocational education and training (Hutchison and Bryson in Video, reflection and transformation: Action research in vocational education and training in a European context. Educ Action Researcher 5(2):283–304, 1997), there is a paucity of research documenting novice researchers’ experiences and struggles when engaging in CAR, particularly in educational contexts where English is learned as a foreign language (EFL). It has been reported that novice researchers such as doctoral students had often been advised (sometimes by their supervisors) to avoid CAR when designing the research methodology for their doctoral projects (Tripp in Action research: amethodological introduction. Educação e Pesquisa 31(3):443–466, 2005). This is understandable given the complexity of enacting CAR in practice and the inexperience of novice researchers such as doctoral candidates in handling the complexity. Nonetheless, as a collective research inquiry, there has been a long tradition for researchers to apply CAR for the purposes of initiating change and taking informed actions to dealing with an identified educational problem (Burns in in Collaborative action research for English language teachers. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999). This chapter argues that it is possible for novice researchers to conduct CAR in their research projects. To better prepare novice researchers for CAR, there is a need to inform them of the challenges and the pertinent coping strategies when engaging with CAR. This chapter is written with a purpose to illustrate how CAR can be taken up by novice researchers with reference to my own experience in conducting CAR as a doctoral researcher, highlighting the struggles and opportunities that I encountered during the process. It is hoped that such a narrative would yield insights on whether and how CAR could be conducted by novice researchers.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of MacauMacauChina
  2. 2.School of Foreign LanguagesJimei UniversityXiamenChina

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