Action Research on Teaching

Action research is at the core of faculty scholarship of teaching and learning.

Action research is a practical approach to professional inquiry in any social situation. In action research you study your own teaching (or supervision, exams) or your own students’ learning processes/prerequisites with the primary purpose of developing (or establishing, qualifying etc.) your own practices, and with a secondary purpose of sharing and making good practices available to those interested. Your own action research may supplement studies done by others and literature on university teaching and learning. 
Because your own action research is contextualised to your own teaching context, and therefore transfers and transforms general knowledge on teaching to a specific student cohort and teaching context, your own action research may constitute the backbone of your teaching development and of sharing and going public.


Start by posing an action research question

What is the teaching and learning issue you want to research in order to improve a point of your choice? Here is an example of a research question for a teaching development project at DTU:


How does e-learning project X affect student understanding of mathematical concepts? (MAT1)

Research methods in action research of teaching and learning

There are many methods used in the action research connected with faculty’ scholarship of teaching and learning. If you have been through UDTU, you will have done action research on a course of your choice. 
Methods in teaching and learning action research may be analysis of your collected

  • Course pretests
  • Course portfolios
  • Observations and recordings (own, student and peer) of teaching, learning and supervision activities
  • Analysis and development of teaching plans and teaching materials
  • Case studies
  • Systematic teaching experiments
  • Interviews, focus groups with and surveys of students
  • Test, feedback and formative assessment data
  • Course evaluations. On UDTU a Course Experience Questionnaire is used for the action research in Module 4 (UDTU report) Course Experience Qustionnaire, English or Course Experience Questionnaire, Danish
  • Exam results
  • etc. 

There are many methods, and they may very well be combined.

A good, short guide to methods when developing and documenting teaching development is


Alkema (2011):A Tertiary Practitioner’s Guide to Collecting Evidence of Learner Benefit.

Examples of action research on teaching done by DTU faculty

Here are some examples of action research on teaching as described by DTU faculty who have developed their teaching based on evidence-based research, and who have later published their action research. In the examples you can see the action research methods used in these projects.

Example 1: Jørgensen, I. H. H., and Marker-Villumsen, N. (2013):  How to Implement an Experimental Course on Analog IC design in a Standard Semester Schedule,

Focus/research question: This paper concerns the design and implementation of a new course specifically aimed at teaching students the practical aspects of analog IC design, and focusing on the full design flow.

Action research methods used for this research are methods for course planning: ” Method 1) a general strategy for designing courses based on constructive alignment [1], [2]  Method 2) method for assessing ”the students’ learning in the course, based on the Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ).”  

Example 2: Jensen, B., B. (2012): Enhanced learning through design problems – teaching a components-based course through designEuropean Journal of Engineering Education, 37.4, p. 376-383.

Focus/research question: How to teach problem-solving skills 

Methods used (a teaching method and a course evaluation method): The teaching method described in this paper has been labelled ‘Learning through Design’. The method was evaluated through a questionnaire[…]
30 MARCH 2020