Action Research

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Active research is a more intensive form of service learning. This approach entails students designing and implementing a project to help a community organization. The project would also incorporate the concepts and information which was taught in class. This method allows students to be critical data collectors and data analyzers.

Example: Students volunteering at a local unemployment office in order to discover the impact of minimum wage law changes on unemployment. The project which the students will create would be creating a survey in order to discover the causes of unemployment. From the data collected from the survey, the students would be able to find which programs would be have the strongest impact on unemployment (education, training, ect.).

Note: In the above example the quality of the data collected by the students could be questionable. Therefore this method (simply conducting a survey), is not reliable.

How to implement

1. Students should be assigned in groups of three or four students to a specific community organization which is appropriate in the context of the class (e.g A labor economics course may assign groups of students to different unemployment offices/agencies in the area).

2. Instructor can provide one hypothesis which each group should prove or could let each group choose its own hypothesis to prove.

3. The hypothesis and project which each student group plans to implement should be reviewed by the instructor before its implementation.

4. Once each project is approved, students should dedicate at least 25 hours to the project.

5. After students have completed their projects, each student group at the end of the course should present their findings to the rest of the class.

6. The active research portion of a class typically accounts for up to half of the students' grade.


McGoldrick, KimMarie, and Andrea L. Ziegert. Putting the Invisible Hand to Work: Concepts and Models for Service Learning in Economics. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 2002. Print.