Practitioner research, also called practitioner action research, is a type of research where the researcher who is conducting the study is also a practitioner in the field. In other words, the researcher works in the area the research carried out. For instance, they can be teachers, social workers, and medical workers whose job requires occasional research. Jean McNiff, together with Jack Whitehead, defines the practitioner research in his book “Action Research: Principles and Practice” (2002, second edition) as follows:
”Action research is a name given to a particular way of researching your own learning. It is a practical way of looking at your practice in order to check whether it is as you feel it should be. If you feel that your practice is satisfactory you will be able to explain how and why you believe this is the case; you will be able to produce evidence to support your claims. Because action research is done by you, the practitioner, it is often referred to as practitioner research, or a similar name such as practitioner-led or practitioner-based research. It is a form of research which can be undertaken by people in any context, regardless of their status or position. It involves you thinking carefully about what you are doing, so it can also be called a kind of self-reflective practice.”
As seen from the quote, practitioners undertake this kind of research if they think their work can benefit from research to some degree. The study sheds light on their doubts and helps to improve certain aspects of the subject matter. Practitioner research can be done individually or can be a collaboration between fellow practitioners. Additionally, practitioners can also use the help of professional researchers. It all depends on the magnitude of the issue the practitioner tries to research.
It lets professionals continuously seek better practices and enhance the methods they apply in their job. To put it another way, it is also a learning process for them. Practitioner research is considered the most effective research in education and aimed at improving the curriculum and finding the most effective teaching techniques.
Differences between traditional research and practitioner research
- The most significant difference between the two forms is that practitioner-researchers are professionals in their field. Therefore, they may have a better understanding of the issue.
- Practitioner research usually takes less time because of the reason mentioned above.
- Practitioner research can involve more people who work in the same field, whereas it may be challenging to find multiple researchers who specialize in a given area.
- Practitioner research may not require as many resources as traditional research and can be conducted with limited data collection methods because it is typically smaller in nature.
- There is also a higher chance for bias because it is not done by the third party, who usually acts more neutral than practitioners. Practitioners can manipulate the results rather easily.
Practitioner research mostly follows the steps used in traditional research such as identifying the issue, writing hypotheses, choosing data collection methods, data collection, coding (LINK), data analysis, and finding solutions. Even though it is prone to practitioner bias, results achieved with this kind of research play a significant role in improving work methods used in many fields, particularly academic circles.