That ‘research’ word…

We caught up with DR MELINDA MILLER who will be presenting at ECA’s 2020 AJEC Research Symposium next week, sharing outcomes from a collaborative research project with G8 Education and Phoenix Support for Educators. In this piece, Dr Miller explains how everyday curriculum practices, when mapped to research processes are central to action-research that involves educators. Her insights are invaluable on how the research process becomes embedded in practice and enables educators to develop a shared language that better links the research concepts with their daily work with children.

Educators can sometimes distance the work they do with young children from the concept of research. Research is sometimes thought of as something that is done to practitioners by others, or something that sits outside everyday practice in early childhood centres. states research is a ‘diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc.’

In daily practice, educators diligently observe and analyse children’s learning and development. After reflection, they revise their practice and discover how different curriculum approaches and teaching strategies influence children’s learning. They also perform educational theory in daily programs.

When educators become aware of how their everyday curriculum practices link to research processes, they are doing what is central to action research. Action research occurs when educators see themselves as researchers and label their everyday practice as a form of research. The educators investigate their own teaching practice in their own context through cycles of questioning, gathering data, reflection and deciding on a course of action (Stringer, 2008). Educators become data generators and data analysts alongside a research team.

As a methodology for professional learning, action research embeds a research culture within centre practices and promotes ownership over the research process. As data generators and analysts, educators gain increasing control over the research process to guide directions and improvements in their own practice. As the research process becomes embedded, educators develop a shared language as they map existing practices to the concept of research. For example:

  • Collaborative reflection on existing practices at the project outset = identifying a research problem.
  • Observations of children or environments = the collection of data.
  • Interpreting what is significant about the observation = analysis of data.
  • Creating a research journal = recording and managing research data.
  • Reflection on one’s own teaching = acknowledging the researcher’s position or reflexivity.
  • Sharing the learning with children, colleagues and families = research dissemination.

At the upcoming AJEC Research Symposium (13–14 February), myself, Julie Madgwick and Sandi Phoenix will discuss a collaborative action research project between G8 Education and Phoenix Support for Educators. The project investigated how the Phoenix Cups framework and a guidance approach to working with children’s behaviour led to short-term progress, change and quality improvements in educators’ practice. Educators from three long day care centres were upskilled in action research to become data generators and data analysts, alongside the research team. The aim was for the educators to experience success, competence and control over the research process and related outcomes. We look forward to sharing outcomes of this project at the 2020 AJEC Research Symposium, in line with the conference theme, Children’s right to a competent and skilled workforce.


Stringer, E. T. (2008). Action research in education (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

ECA Recommends

Strengthening quality through critical reflection and action research 
by Linda Newman, Nicole Leggett, Melissa Duffy-Fagan and Kate Higginbottom

This Research in Practice Series title focuses on critical reflection and showcases how educators can think about issues more deeply and in divergent ways to support practitioner research. When critical reflection is used alongside action research, it can be transformative for practice at personal and whole-service levels.

The book includes a practical explanation of action research to support educators in their professional learning journey towards becoming critically reflective practitioner-researchers. It also elaborates on two real-life case studies on action research projects. These will assist educators in imagining and planning their own practitioner action research aimed at improving quality in their centres. You can purchase your copy on the ECA Shop here.

Melinda Miller

Dr Melinda Miller is the Pedagogy and Practice Manager at G8 Education. Melinda is an experienced facilitator of action research projects involving educators as researchers. Previously, Melinda held the position of Senior Lecturer in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education at QUT.

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