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Action research

Three Purposes for Action Research

❶Participatory approaches are not fundamentally distinct from other empirical social research procedures. At first, the professional researchers enter the field as "foreigners"; as time goes by they assume the role of "mobilizer," "service provider," "provider of information," and "ally"; eventually they become "patrons"; and, in the best case, they finally become "mentors.

The Action Research Process

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The mission of the LET action researcher is to overcome workplace norms and self-behavior which contradict the researcher's values and beliefs. The vision of the LET researcher is to make an original contribution to knowledge through generating an educational theory proven to improve the learning of people within a social learning space. The standard of judgment for theory validity is evidence of workplace reform, transformational growth of the researcher, and improved learning by the people researcher claimed to have influenced French and Cecil Bell define organization development OD at one point as "organization improvement through action research".

Concerned with social change and, more particularly, with effective, permanent social change, Lewin believed that the motivation to change was strongly related to action: If people are active in decisions affecting them, they are more likely to adopt new ways. Lewin's description of the process of change involves three steps: Figure 1 summarizes the steps and processes involved in planned change through action research.

Action research is depicted as a cyclical process of change. Major adjustments and reevaluations would return the OD project to the first or planning stage for basic changes in the program.

The action-research model shown in Figure 1 closely follows Lewin's repetitive cycle of planning, action, and measuring results. It also illustrates other aspects of Lewin's general model of change.

As indicated in the diagram, the planning stage is a period of unfreezing, or problem awareness. There is inevitable overlap between the stages, since the boundaries are not clear-cut and cannot be in a continuous process.

The results stage is a period of refreezing, in which new behaviors are tried out on the job and, if successful and reinforcing, become a part of the system's repertoire of problem-solving behavior. Action research is problem centered, client centered, and action oriented.

It involves the client system in a diagnostic, active-learning, problem-finding and problem-solving process. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the academic journal titled Action Research, see Action Research journal. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. January Learn how and when to remove this template message.

This can be seen, for example, from the fact that qualitative approaches enjoy greater acceptance in certain disciplines, for example sociology and ethnology.

That said, the aforementioned closeness between research partners in participatory research—and the skepticism that this provokes from some quarters—means that it has not been able to benefit as much from the increased acceptance as "conventional" qualitative research has done. The dissolution of the subject-object relationship between the researchers and the researched is a further grave problem for the academic recognition of participatory research.

In participatory research projects, the role of active researcher—and knowing subject—is not held by the academic researchers alone but by all the participants, with all the consequences that this brings for data collection, analysis, interpretation, and the publication of the findings. This leads to considerable acceptance problems when it comes to research funding. These problems start with the tendering period, which is often quite short.

As a result, it is not possible to develop the research proposal collaboratively because negotiation processes with affected persons take much longer. In most cases, a reviewer's assessment of the quality of a project is based on the aforementioned nomothetic science model.

However, as a result, requirements are imposed that either cannot be fulfilled by participatory research, or that lead to nonsensical restrictions. This starts with the said research questions, which can be formulated only vaguely or in general terms before the project begins. Other characteristics of participatory research also hamper acceptance. It is scarcely possible to produce an exact timetable because the duration of the negotiation processes among the research partners cannot be accurately forecast.

All that is clear is that the overall life-span of such a research project frequently exceeds the normally expected timeframe for funded projects see COOK, Certain items in the finance plan also meet with rejection by funding bodies.

However, such items in the finance plan are frequently rejected by the funders. The situation is similar at the universities, where it is very difficult for a young scientist to submit a thesis or dissertation that employs participatory research strategies.

Moreover, it is scarcely possible to produce the exact timetables required by universities. In addition, the number of reviewers who are in a position to assess such works is limited. This depends, once again, on the discipline in question. At the present point in time, it is almost impossible to gain a doctorate in psychology in Germany with a thesis based on participatory methodology.

The problem of forging an academic career is further aggravated by the fact that projects with research partners who are practitioners or affected persons is much more time-consuming because extensive discussions must be conducted with them.

This means that the production of scientific works lasts much longer and, as a result, the researcher's list of publications is shorter. Moreover, for the reasons stated above, few scholarly journals accept participatory works. Furthermore, marginalized groups are studied more frequently in participatory research projects, and these groups are not the focus of interest of "normal science.

And because the Science Citation Index serves as an important indicator of scientific qualification, authors who apply participatory methods are disadvantaged. Overall, it can be noted that the current scientific structure is extremely unfavorable for participatory research projects.

In saying that, it cannot be disputed that it is sometimes very difficult to assess the quality and rigor of participatory projects. For these reasons, it will be very important for the future of participatory research to develop criteria that facilitate the assessment of such projects.

On a more pragmatic level, COOK suggests, for example, that standardized application forms be developed. However, there is undoubtedly considerable need for further development in this regard—and a more intense discussion of quality criteria will be of central importance.

The problem of quality criteria for participatory research is regularly raised by a diverse range of stakeholders: In qualitative research, the question of appropriate quality criteria has been discussed at length, and various concepts have been proposed.

This discussion will not be pursued here. However, in our opinion, the question of quality criteria for participatory research reveals a number of underlying fundamental questions that are also of relevance to qualitative research in general. If one proceeds from the assumption that, in participatory research, all the perspectives and voices of the participants should be granted equal rights of expression, and that each group possesses qualitatively different knowledge about the social world under study, then it is to be expected that the participants will also have different views on the quality of the research process and its results.

In our opinion, the question of what constitutes "good" research findings is answered very differently by the various research participants, and also by those who review, assess, use, or read these findings. This response depends on the system of values and norms to which the particular stakeholders subscribe; on their individual interests; and on the discourse that takes place in the context in question. Therefore, when asked by a stakeholder whether, and to what extent, a concrete project corresponds to its values and interests, the researchers must furnish convincing arguments derived from that stakeholder's own discursive context.

The fact that diverse groups address the quality criteria question highlights the need for a more context-specific analysis of what is understood by "quality" in the sense of a good participatory research project. From the perspective of social constructivism—which can be drawn on here as a meta-theoretical approach GERGER, —the concept of "quality" in the social constructivist sense is a socially defined concept.

The constructions that arise in this way are then binding within the sphere of influence of these institutions or organizations until such time as they are revised. Within the framework of the present Introduction, we shall briefly demonstrate how this perspective can offer a starting point for tackling the problem of quality criteria in participatory research. To begin with, one must identify the various institutions and groups of participants to whom the participatory research project is accountable.

A review of the literature reveals that one can roughly state that participatory research projects are confronted with the task of demonstrating the quality of their work to such diverse social institutions as: In the course of the history of the western world, science has established itself as the social subsystem that judges whether something is "true," in the sense of correct knowledge. However, participatory research is accountable to many social institutions for whom the criterion of "truth" in the scientific sense of the word is of only secondary importance.

Therefore, from now on we shall not refer to "quality criteria," but rather to justificatory arguments employed in the institutional or contextual discourses in question. We argue that, in the course of social development in the various social spheres of activity, different systems of communication and action with different justificatory norms have evolved.

Therefore, the arguments used by researchers to justify a participatory research project and its findings must correspond to these structures because, otherwise, they will not be accepted. In everyday research practice, these diverse justificatory requirements lead to considerable difficulties because their systematic dissimilarity is not recognized.

Rather, they are experienced as incompatible demands that can scarcely be adequately responded to at the one time. This can be clearly seen in a number of contributions to the present special issue. On the basis of four examples derived from these articles, we shall outline the consequences that such diverse, subsystem-specific justificatory structures have. It should be borne in mind that the participatory projects presented to scientific committees have been developed against the background of justificatory arguments and, above all, values that come from social contexts that differ greatly from the science world.

The resulting justificatory arguments do not correspond to the "classical" quality criteria that can be considered to be a context-specific justificatory argument within the science system. Therefore, compatibility of the justificatory argument structures in the various discursive contexts can be expected in the long term only if efforts to extend the academic code are successful.

The debate on the acceptance of qualitative research methods could be considered an example of such efforts. The importance of the political system becomes very clear in the article by Sylvia LENZ , who highlights the incompatibility between dictatorship and participatory research.

There can be no justificatory arguments for this particular political context without fundamentally denying the participatory research approach. This is an extreme example, but even in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany and other western countries there have been political constellations in which the justificatory arguments for participatory research have encountered acceptance problems because of their incompatibility with political policy programs. For example, the justificatory arguments of research projects are accepted by state research funding programs only if they fit in with the prevailing political values.

Another social sphere discussed in the present special issue is that of conventional medicine. Here, too, the consequences of incompatible justificatory arguments are highlighted. Research by people who have experienced psychiatric treatment "survivor research" , for example, explicitly aims at the development of an alternative to the dominant biomedical model of mental "illnesses" RUSSO, As the alternative model is based on personal experiences, the justificatory arguments are not compatible with the biomedical model.

Such research is frequently dismissed as "unscientific" and "subjective" by conventional medicine, and its findings are not incorporated into the canon of knowledge of the discipline. The economic system is defined by the allocation or non-allocation of resources in the form of money. This is particularly striking in the case of psychiatric research funded by the pharmaceutical industry—an example furnished by RUSSO This research aims at the development of marketable pharmaceutical products.

The author notes that the massive funding of research by the pharmaceutical industry has led to the dominance of the biomedical model of mental illness. By contrast, the development of alternative models from the perspective of the affected persons is hampered by lack of funding due to the fact that the justificatory arguments advanced do not comply with the central goal of the economic market model espoused by the pharmaceutical industry—that is, profit maximization.

Therefore, the answer to the question of who funds or rejects a research project, and what interests are behind the decision, must also be part of the statements on the quality of a research project.

The considerations presented here are in line with the current debate on quality research. FLICK also argues that the quality criteria in qualitative research should be context-specific. However, the contexts that he has in mind differ from those used here.

In his opinion, the relevant contexts are "on the one hand theoretical and methodological schools," and "on the other hand, in recent years, the differentiation of the various fields of application of qualitative research" p. They note that the "relevant discursive contexts The authors propose a strategy of clarification that entails acknowledging and developing the broad range of arguments and examining the importance of the social and scientific contexts for scientific activities.

In our view, it would also be worthwhile to analyze the requirements of justification of the various social institutions more closely in the manner described above in order to achieve a systematic conceptualization of these requirements and a more specific assessment of the extent to which individual qualitative and participatory projects must be justified in the context of specific social institutions.

Against the background of such considerations, justificatory arguments such as usefulness, authenticity, credibility, reflexivity, and sustainability should be discussed. Participatory researchers are particularly called upon to address ethical questions.

The closeness to the research partners during participatory projects repeatedly requires ethically sound decisions about the norms and rules that should apply in social dealings among the participants; about how data should be collected, documented, and interpreted in such a way that they do not harm the participants and that their privacy is assured; and about the reliability, duration, and timeframe of the professional researchers' availability, etc.

The necessity for an ethical basis for such decisions becomes clear against the background of the fact—reported in various articles in this issue—that participatory research is always in danger of being used by very different parties for purposes that contradict its postulated fundamental concept.

On the one hand, the offer of involvement and participation in decisions can be used to entice people who normally do not have such possibilities to work in research projects.

This is considered to be a way of gaining easier access to groups who have a critical view of research. The danger of misuse of participatory methods exists in evaluation research, for example.

On the other hand, trust, and the closeness it engenders, facilitate access to deeper, and perhaps taboo, layers—both in the minds of the participants and in the life-world. Here the danger of transgression and, therefore, of serious damage is always acute.

It is especially those who have years of experience of research, and who perceive it as being directed partly against their interests, who will insist that ethical norms be adhered to. These action effects include:. Different value preferences with regard to these decisions also lead to conflicts and confrontation between the research partners and within the community under study.

The research project and the publication of the results can have considerable negative consequences for the research participants. They describe how the British tabloid press used government reports of research findings about teenage pregnancy to publish sensationalist reports.

Neither the researchers nor the research funders can exercise sufficient control over the way findings are reported. Therefore, it is always necessary to reflect with the affected persons about what can happen when hitherto invisible, taboo problems are made public. However, the concrete consequences can scarcely be foreseen.

This gives rise to the dilemma of having to choose whether to defer the publication of problems that are in urgent need of public discussion or to publish them for that very reason.

If the latter option is chosen, counter-strategies must be developed with the research partners. The cooperation with her was most pleasant. She helped to transform our typical German writing into understandable English. Working with her was a real participative experience. As far as we are aware, no studies have yet been conducted on changes in disposition in the course of participatory research projects.

A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Planning Association , 35 4 , Factors related to self-rated participation in adolescents and adults with mild intellectual disability—A systematic literature review. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities , 21 , Visualising migration and social division: Insights from social sciences and the visual arts. Qualitative Social Research , 11 2 , http: Comparative similarities and differences between action research, participative research, and participatory action research , http: Participatory strategies in community psychology research—a short survey.

Proceedings from the 6th European Conference on Community Psychology pp. Opening up for many voices in knowledge construction. Qualitative Social Research , 13 1 , Art.

In Reinhard Kreckel Ed. Sonderband 2 der sozialen Welt pp. Standards of social research. Qualitative Social Research , 2 3 , Art. Partizipative Evaluationsmethoden—zur Entmystifizierung eines Begriffs in der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit. In Uwe Flick Ed. Konzepte, Methoden, Umsetzungen pp. Participative inquiry and practice 2nd ed. Von der Psychoanalyse zur themenzentrierten Interaktion.

Where participatory approaches meet pragmatism in funded health research: The challenge of finding meaningful spaces. The research imagination amid dilemmas of engaging young people in critical participatory work. Angst und Methode in den Verhaltenswissenschaften. Engagement and empowerment, research and relevance: Comments on user-controlled research. Research Policy and Planning , 22 2 , , http: Breaking the monopoly with participatory action research pp.

The ethics of survivor research. Guidelines for the ethical conduct of research carried out by mental health service users and survivors. The Policy Press, http: An Introduction to Qualitative Research 4th ed. The social constructionist movement in modern psychology. American Psychologist , 40 3 , The grounded theory perspective.

Conceptualization contrasted with description. The dicovery of grounded theory. Anne; Mark, Daniel; Frankish, C. James; Herbert, Carol P. Guidelines for participatory research in health promotion. In Franz Breuer Ed. Grundlagen, Methoden und Anwendungen eines Forschungsstils pp.

Praxisforschung in der sozialen Arbeit. Ergebnisse einer Begleitstudie zum Weddinger Psychoseseminar und Erfahrungen mit der Forschungspartizipation von Psychoseerfahrenen. Research into the human condition. Qualitative Social Research , 9 2 , http: Exploring the relevance of critical theory for action research: Participative inquiry and practice pp. Communicative action and the public sphere. Qualitative Social Research , 9 3 , http: Quality in research as "taking an attitude of inquiry".

Magement Research News , 30 , The self-conscious researcher—Post-modern perspectives of participatory research with young people. Subjectivity and reflexivity in qualitative research I. Qualitative Social Research , 3 3 , http: Scripting a meaningful research text with rape crisis workers.

The Sage handbook of action research. It represents a fairly typical example of an action research initiative. The second and third case studies centre around the use of computer communications, and therefore illustrate a departure from the norm in this regard.

They are presented following a brief overview of this potentially promising technical innovation. In , an action research process was initiated to explore how nature tourism could be instituted on each of the four Windward Islands in the Caribbean - St.

Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, and St. The government took the lead, for environmental conservation, community-based development, and national economic development purposes.

Two action researchers from York University in Toronto, with prior experience in the region, were hired to implement the project, with a majority of the funding coming from the Canadian International Development Agency.

Multi-stakeholder national advisory councils were formed, and national project coordinators selected as local project liaisons. Their first main task was to organize a search conference on each island. At this point, extended advisory groups were formed on several of the islands, and national awareness activities and community sub-projects were implemented in some cases.

To maintain the process, regional project meetings were held, where project coordinators and key advisory members shared experiences, conducted self-evaluations and developed plans for maintaining the process e.

One of the more valuable tools for building a sense of community was the use of a videocamera to create a documentary video of a local project. Vincent the research project was highly successful, with several viable local developments instituted. Lucia showed mixed outcomes, and Dominica was the least successful, the process curtailed by the government soon after the search conference took place.

There is always a risk that this kind of research will empower stakeholders, and change existing power relations, the threat of which is too much for some decision-makers, but if given the opportunity, there are many things that a collaborative group of citizens can accomplish that might not be possible otherwise.

In the past ten years or so, there has been a marked increase in the number of organizations that are making use of information technology and computer mediated communications.

This has led to a number of convergences between information systems and action research. In some cases, it has been a matter of managers of corporate networks employing action research techniques to facilitate large-scale changes to their information systems.

In others, it has been a question of community-based action research projects making use of computer communications to broaden participation. The emergence of the Internet has led to an explosion of asynchronous and aspatial group communication in the form of e-mail and computer conferences, and recently, v-mail and video conferencing.

While there have been numerous attempts to use this new technology in assisting group learning, both within organizations and among groups in the community [this author has been involved with a dozen or more projects of this kind in the nonprofit sector in Canada alone], there is a dearth of published studies on the use of action research methods in such projects Lau and Hayward , in a recent review of the literature, found that most research on group support systems to date has been in short-term, experimental situations using quantitative methods..

There are a few examples, though, of longitudinal studies in naturalistic settings using qualitative methods; of those that did use action research, none studied the use and effects of communication systems in groups and organizations. We can now to turn to the case studies, both of which are situated in an area in need of more research - that of the use of information technology as a potentially powerful adjunct to action research processes. Lau and Hayward used an action research approach in a study of their own to explore the structuration of Internet-based collaborative work groups.

Over a two-year period, the researchers participated as facilitators in three action research cycles of problem-solving among approximately 15 instructors and project staff, and 25 health professionals from various regions striving to make a transition to a more community-based health program.

The aim was to explore how Internet-based communications would influence their evolution into a virtual collaborative workgroup. The first phase was taken up with defining expectations, providing the technology and developing the customized workgroup system. Feedback from participants noted that shorter and more spaced training sessions, with instructions more focused on specific projects would have been more helpful.

The next phase saw the full deployment of the system, and the main lesson learned was that the steepness of the learning curve was severely underestimated, with frustrations only minimally satisfied by a great deal of technical support provided by telephone. The final cycle saw the stabilization of the system and the emergence of the virtual groups. The researchers found that those who used the system interactively were more likely to establish projects that were collaborative in nature, and that the lack of high quality information on community healthcare online was a drawback.

The participants reported learning a great deal from the initiative. The interpretations of the study suggest that role clarity, relationship building, information sharing, resource support, and experiential learning are important aspects in virtual group development. There was also a sense that more research was needed on how group support systems can help groups interact with their external environment, as well as on how to enhance the process of learning by group members.

Comstock and Fox have written about their experiences in integrating computer conferencing into a learning community for mid-career working adults attending a Graduate Management Program at Antioch University in Seattle.

From to , the researchers and their students made use of a dial-up computer conferencing system called Caucus to augment learning outside of monthly classroom weekends. Their findings relate to establishing boundaries to interaction, creating a caring community, and building collaborative learning. Boundary setting was a matter of both defined membership, i.

The architecture of the online environment was equated to that of a house, in which locked rooms allowed for privacy, but hampered interaction. They suggest some software design changes that would provide more cues and flexibility to improve access and usage. Relationships in a caring community were fostered by caring talk, personal conversations and story telling. Over time, expressions of personal concern for other participants increased, exemplifying a more tightly-knit group.

These processes provided the support and induced the trust needed to sustain the more in-depth collaborative learning taking place. Students were expected to use the system for collaborative learning using three forms of conversation - dialogue, discussion and critical reflection.

Dialogues were enjoined as a result of attempts to relate classroom lessons to personal situations at work, with a better understanding provided by multiple opinions. Discussions, distinguished by the goal of making a group decision or taking an action, required a fair degree of moderation, insofar as participants found it difficult to reach closure.

The process of reflecting critically on ideas was also difficult - participants rarely took the time to analyze postings, preferring a more immediate, and more superficial, conversational style. The authors conclude with four recommendations: The characteristics of the new information technologies, especially that of computer conferencing, which allows group communications to take place outside of the bounds of time and space, have the potential to be well suited to action research.

Projects that traditionally have been limited to local, real-time interactions, such as in the case of search conferences, now have the possibility of being conducted online, with the promise of larger-sized groups, more reflexivity, greater geographic reach, and for a longer period of sustained interaction. The current state of the software architecture, though, does not seem to be sufficient to induce the focused collaboration required. Perhaps this will remain the case until cyberspace becomes as elaborate in contextual cues as our current socio-physical environment.

Whatever the eventual outcome of online developments, it is certain that action research and information technologies will continue to converge, and we must be prepared to use action research techniques to better understand and utilize this convergence. This paper has presented an overview of action research as a methodological approach to solving social problems.

The principles and procedures of this type of research, and epistemological underpinnings, were described, along with the evolution of the practice.

Details of a search conference and other tools were given, as was an indication of the roles and ethics involved in the research. The case studies gave concrete examples of projects, particularly in the relatively new area of social deployment of information technologies. Further action research is needed to explore the potential for developing computer-mediated communications in a way that will enhance human interactions.

A Sociotechnical Systems Perspective," ed. Sage Publications, Principles and Practice in Action-Research Philadelphia: The Falmer Press, Under Siege and Taking Charge! Falmer Press, Future Search Process Design.

Boog, Ben, et al. Tilbury University Press, Chisholm, Rupert, and Max Elden. Comstock, Don, and Sally Fox. Elden, Max, and Rupert Chisholm. Introduction to the Special Issue. Captus University Publications, An accounting of the outcomes has not yet been published.

Perspectives on Sustainable Futures.


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Action research is often used in the field of education. The following lesson provides two examples of action research in the field of education.

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Action research can be defined as “an approach in which the action researcher and a client collaborate in the diagnosis of the problem and in the development of a solution based on the diagnosis”[1]. In other words, one of the main characteristic traits of action research relates to.

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Action research is known by many other names, including participatory research, collaborative inquiry, emancipatory research, action learning, and contextural action research, but all are variations on a . I think that the major justification for action research methods is that they can be responsive to the situation in a way that many other research methods can not be, at least in the short term. On these grounds I think action research will usually, though perhaps not always, be cyclic in nature.

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In Action Research Methods, the authors acknowledge that the methodology component is where most of the struggle and confusion lies with students in research methods courses. The overall aim is to assist master's level education students with practical and theoretically grounded approaches to the. A succinct definition of action research appears in the workshop materials we use at the Institute for the Study of Inquiry in Education. That definition states that action research is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action. The primary reason for engaging in.