SOLES Action Research Work

School, Family and Mental Health Professions

The Counseling portion of the action research web site features work underway since 1999. That was the year the Counseling Program began developing collaborative action research as a central component of the program. Since we began, we have completed more than 40 projects involving local schools, community-based organizations, and unique collaborations.

The Bi-national Action Research Collaboration (BARC) has been in existence since 2006. BARC supports action research examining issues affecting children and youth on both sides of the U.S. – Mexico border. At right is a video of students involved with a support group in Tijuana since 2008. BARC involves a collaboration between USD, Universidad Iberoamericana, and Sistema Educativo Estatal in Tijuana, Baja California.


Leadership Studies

The department of leadership studies welcomes you to our portion of the SOLES action research website.  Here, you will find information on the practice of action research as it is grounded in leadership studies within SOLES.  Our focus is on the development of ethical, reflective leaders who engage in all forms of leadership practice in academic and professional contexts.  In the leadership studies department, all master's students completing their degree with an emphasis in higher education must engage in an action research project as their exit requirement upon graduation; all other master's and doctoral students have the option of completing an action research project for their thesis or dissertation project as well.  Research courses in our master's programs focus on the development of an action research proposal, which requires students to consider the purpose of their study, the context of the study, their role as action researchers, relevant methods of inquiry, and the process of action and implementation.  We view action research as an iterative form of intellectual discovery, whereby the researcher engages directly with those she researches instead of working actively to remain an objective or distanced observer.  By conducting this kind of scholarly inquiry in the field of leadership studies, we deepen and enrich our understanding of the leader-follower dynamic as well as group relations, insofar as we can come to a better and more holistic understanding of the nature of human interaction and the organizational, institutional, and interpersonal influences embedded therein.  As a department we have formed a sub-group of faculty who regularly and actively engage in and discuss action research together in order to clarify our own thinking around this work, and to learn together about the myriad ways in which action research informs our practice as leaders and professors of leadership.

The Nonprofit Leadership and Management Specialization

Students in the Nonprofit Leadership and Management master’s program complete a number of applied projects during their graduate degree program. These projects include many of the core elements of action research. The professional students collaboratively work with the staff and board of local nonprofit organizations to develop a project that will assist the nonprofit in their work.  The goal of these projects is to improve nonprofit practice through the actions, observations, and reflections of the students working within the nonprofit organization. Since 2002 NLM students have completed more than 500 applied projects for a wide array of nonprofit organizations. Examples of these projects include Research Projects, Board Assessments and Strategic Plan Feasibility Studies.

The Higher Education Specialization

Students in the Higher Education Leadership master’s program complete an action research project as their exit requirement.  Reflecting on their own experience as higher education professionals, students take advantage of the opportunity to join with others to study within their communities of practice.  Using principles of action inquiry, students work with others to explore an issue or problem that is ultimately improved using a range of actions and interventions. Students who are Graduate Assistants in the SOLES and Student Affairs Collaboration (SASC), join with their supervisors and other administrators to focus their action research projects on issues of importance to the department as a whole.  All higher education leadership students present their final projects at the SOLES Action Research conference.


Learning and Teaching

Action research has come to be a defining element of our graduate programs at SOLES.  Master’s candidates in our Counseling, Learning and Teaching, and Leadership programs all engage in systematic action research.  We believe that AR provides our candidates with the opportunity to improve their current practice and equips them with the habits of mind that will allow them to continue to grow as professionals throughout their careers. 

Although there are many similarities across programs, AR in each of our departments is designed to be responsive to the particular demands of the field.  We invite you to explore the expectations, samples of student work, and descriptions of student experiences through the program links below.