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Action Research
Following Nunan

According to Nunan (1990), a classroom action research does not require the standard formalization of a research project with a literature search, hypothesis testing, treatment conditions, etc. Instead, it consists of seven basic steps to investigate a problem. They are as follows:

  1. After determining that there is a potential problem, survey what is happening (status quo) through observation—via video, audio, hash marks, or whatever relevant means are available.
  2. Code the observation based on the problem and what was seen (i.e., the code is created solely for that problem/session).
  3. Based on the coded information, determine one change that could impact the problem in a positive manner.
  4. Implement the change in the course/classroom.
  5. Observe the class/course (as in Step 1) while implementing the change.
  6. Code the new observation(s) as in Step 2. 
  7. Finally, compare the coded sessions to determine the results of the change.

Specific Action Research for Engaging Students with Linguistics Textbooks

I applied these seven steps to the "Introduction to Descriptive Linguistics for Teachers" course. The specific problem under investigation was that students did not use the required textbook for their online course.

Step 1: I reviewed other online courses in descriptive linguistics, particularly introductory courses, with a focus on textbook use. I also surveyed students from previous online descriptive linguistics courses at the University of Texas Pan-American.

Step 2: I based my code of measurement on how many surveyed students claimed to have used the textbook (40%) and how many of the reviewed online courses required a textbook (100% of my sample). 

Step 3: I required students to purchase a textbook, but I gave them a variety of introductory textbooks to choose from and encouraged different selections.

Step 4: I implemented the change as described in this article.

Steps 5 and 6: I did not change the measurement code for the online descriptive linguistics course. One hundred percent of students in the "treatment group" reported using the textbooks extensively during the course.

Step 7: This classroom action research accomplished two pedagogical goals: It fostered meaningful student engagement with the course material in the textbooks, and it encouraged active communication about course information among the students.


Nunan, D. (1990). Action research in the language classroom. In J. Richards & D. Nunan (Eds.), Second language teacher education (pp. 62-81). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.