14If having implemented some changes students report back greater benefits from attending the event then what you have done is to have changed your practice, increased learning for students and completed one cycle of action research. Even if any changes do not result in positive benefits, you will have attempted to improve your practice, learned something about it and still completed a cycle of action research! The above is just one example to illustrate the usefulness of action research but there are many areas to which it could be applied in the realms of personal, educational and vocational guidance. An example of using an action research model from my own practice is one that involves TYs deciding what subjects to pick for Leaving Certificate: . What was my concern? - Students were picking subjects without a realistic appreciation of what the subject involved.. Why was I concerned? - Poor subject choice resulted in students not enjoying the subject and wanting to change to other subjects which sometimes was not possible.Post PrimaryAction Research - Why Bother? continuedNCGE NEWS Winter 2011. What could I do? - I asked students what I might do differently to help ensure they had sufficient knowledge of subjects when selecting them for Leaving Certificate. . What did I do? - I decided it might be helpful if Sixth Year students gave a brief presentation to TYs on what the subject entailed, asking subject teachers to select and guide the students who would give the presentation ensuring that it was an honest appraisal of the subject.. What happened? - TY students reported back that they found the presentations very beneficial and the opportunity allowed them to ask the Sixth Year student questions about the subject. The following September/October fewer students wanted to change subjects. . What difference did this make to my practice? - I now know that the students' presentations assist and benefit TYs in their subject choice so each year presentations are made. This shows I have changed and improved my practice and I can give reasons or present evidence to back up this claim. I also have shared this knowledge, and am doing so now, with other guidance counsellors.
15I am sure many guidance counsellors seek to improve their practice in ways similar to the above and who may be doing so without realising they are using an action research methodology. However, explicitly knowing about and using action research not only improves practice but strengthens it and its claim to professionalism. With employers and other bodies emphasising and placing a premium on independent thinking, self-directed learning and problem-solving skills, action research is a methodology guidance counsellors might usefully encourage senior students to use when it comes to making choices regarding their education and future careers. However, in order to effectively do this guidance counsellors must first be familiar with action research themselves and be convinced of its benefits.There is no mystery about action research and when guidance counsellors meet either at branch meetings, career events or at conferences they often share concerns they may have around various issues because they want to improve what they are doing in their schools and they communicate to others what they have found works well. In an informal way this encapsulates a community of practitioners gathering and disseminating the findings of their action research - even if they are unaware that they are doing it!A final point regarding action research, but one which I believe to be most important, is that it locates the researcher as the person who knows most about their school and their students in the context of their concerns or research question. I believe this to be important because in an era where so much educational change is coming from outside schools it is important to acknowledge that guidance counsellors hold a unique position in schools affording them a detailed knowledge of the their students and their schools - they are the experts in their schools. Action research helps to legitimise this expertise and to share it with others. By engaging in action research and by sharing it, guidance counsellors are giving a voice not only to their profession and expertise but also to their students and schools. In times of change such a voice may be more important than ever.'AuthorPeter Hyde works as a guidance counsellor in Kinsale Community School. He attended the University of Limerick where he obtained his qualification in guidance counselling in 2007. In UL course leader Tom Geary introduced the guidance class to action research by having Professor Jean McNiff give a presentation on the topic. Peter also holds a MEd from the University of Hull and was recently awarded a Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Leadership from NUI Maynooth. Post PrimaryAction Research - Why Bother? continuedNCGE NEWS Winter 2011