Practitioner Research

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Practitioner research involves one or more people who are both practitioners (e.g. Teachers) and are researching that practice. Unlike some other forms of research, practitioner research is intended to solve problems and enhance practice (rather than developing theory for example).

Action Research is one specific form of practitioner research. Practitioner research may be seen an effective model of inquiry-based continuing professional development (CPD), since it is one way to embody the notion of a teacher as a lifelong learners.
Some authors(for example Kemmis, 2006, 2009 and Bartlett & Burton, 2006) use the terms practitioner research and action research interchangeably. An important characteristic of practitioner/action research is the doer of the research; it is the teacher in his/her classroom rather than an outside researcher as is the case with most traditional academic (observational) research. Practitioner research is done by teachers and for teachers (though sometimes in collaboration with outside university-based researchers). It helps teachers understand and change their practice in a principled and informed way and create learning communities in schools.


Practitioner research as effective CPD

Figure 1 The Vital Practitioner Research Cycle


Figure 2 The Vital Reflective Practice Cycle

Reflective Practice Cycle-cropped.png

It offers teacher the chance to systematically investigate and continuously learn from their practices and come up with ideas and conclusions that enrich their understandings of their practices and enhance their teaching. Practitioner research could also inform policy through providing insights 'from the field' by those closest and most concerned with classroom life. An essential characteristic of practitioner research is that it is based on the principle of reflective practice. Through reflection, teachers figure out and prioritise what needs to be investigated in their teaching and through reflection they assess their practitioner research projects. One way of thinking about the relationship between Reflective Practice and Practitioner Research is that Practitioner Research is a form of Reflective Practice that engages with the community through (1) building on what is already known and (2) sharing the findings with the wider professional community. See Figure 1 (Vital model of practitioner research) and Figure 2 (Vital model of reflective practice), at right.

Another significant feature of practitioner research as effective CPD is that it usually involves collaboration among teachers in the same school for the purpose of understanding, changing and improving their practices together. In this way, practitioner research offers a precious opportunity for teachers to build inquiring communities that produce and debate knowledge that is relevant to their context and their practice and assist them in changing and ultimately improving teaching and learning.
Some forms of critical practitioner-led enquiries are thought to bring "unwelcome news" (Kemmis, 2006) by questioning and challenging the underlying assumptions and taken for granteds in various aspects of teaching and learning.

Why do practitioner research?

Practitioner research is an empowering and developmental tool for teachers. Through involvement in practitioner research, teachers can improve their practice and make their voice heard by systematically, and perhaps collaboratively, providing evidence from their teaching. The evidence teachers provide can guide and inform policy which ultimately empower teachers through being central in the educational decision-making process.

Key concepts in practitioner research

How to do practitioner research?

Below are some resources that help with the various stages of a practitioner researcher project

Find out

Here are some resources that help in the "Find out" stage.

online communities

Search engines and databases of research outputs


Web sites


Ethical issues

A very significant issue to consider when planning a teacher research project is the ethical guidelines. In the UK, all educational research in general is expected to conform to the established ethical guidelines in the field. Teacher researchers are advised to follow the BERA ethical guidelines.

Data collection


Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing: this is an overview of Kvale's book on interviews. The short overview helps the teacher researcher thinks about different aspects of interviews as a data collection methods and the types of questions to ask.


Observation Techniques: Provides an overview of different observation techniques followed by information on how to carry out observations. Prepared by Prof Andrew Hannan, University of Plymouth, 2006


Developing your action plan


  • ICT for Education
  • Advancing Education : This is the main Naace journal and is an eclectic mix of academic and action research papers, reports from sponsoring partners, indeed anything to do with advancing the use of ICT across education and reports covering all phases of education. As such it reflects the wide ranging interests of members and sponsors. The journal is published online three times a year. If you aren't a Naace member then try emailing for details of how to submit an article.
  • Networks is an online journal for teacher research. This journal welcomes accounts from teachers across all educational levels.

See also

Action Research Networks:


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