This week the theme of my course is action research. It is quite interesting to think about what kind of role action plays in postmodern inquiries. What is exactly meant by ‘Action Research?
In Reason & Bradbury’s (2001, p.2) article, the authors give this definition:
“Action research is a practice for systematic development for knowing and knowledge based in different relationships”
The emergence of action research can be seen as the complement of the ‘linguistic turn’ (Reason & Torbert 2001, p. 2). The linguistic turn refers to the postmodern view on language with which human beings construct realities (to learn more about a postmodern perspective on language and realities, please see my previous post). Why would action research be regarded as a complement to the linguistic turn? Because action research is still based on the assumption that realities are socially constructed through language, but it goes beyond the questions of how to construct and deconstruct what has been taken for granted, and furthermore addresses how we can act in our daily life, a socially constructed world. The primary aim of action research is to produce practical knowledge for people in their daily life. The broader goal of action research is to enhance the well-being of individuals and communities and seek for more sustainable relationships with the wider environment.
From the perspective of action research, knowing and knowledge are grounded in a participatory worldview and are developed through actions. The way in which action research conceives knowing and knowledge is different from conventional academic research. The notion of knowledge in action research is a continuous evolving knowing process arising in peoples’ dialogues and in the daily life. Besides, it assumes that human beings as agents act in the world according to their own sensemaking individually or mutually and collectively with/within communities. In this sense, action research (Reason & Bardbury 2001, p.2) is not doing research on persons, but with, for and by persons and communities, and engaging them in the process of the research, which is referred to as the participatory worldview. In Reason and Torbert’s article (2001, p.6), they point out differences between action research and empirical positivism. They (Reason & Torbert 2001, p. 6) argue that empirical positivism emphasizes ‘universalizable, valid certainty in reflection about particular pre-designated questions‘, whereas action research focuses on ‘timely, voluntary, mutual, validity-testing, transformative action at all moments of living.’
Reason and Torbert (2001) suggest three strategies for action research: first-person research/practice, second-person research/practice, and third-person research/practice. First-person research/practice emphasizes the individual relation to the inquiries, in another words, how you as an inquirer connect your own daily life or experiences to your inquiries. Second-person research/practice addresses interpersonal relations, engaging face-to-face group in collaborative inquiry. Here means that it does no just focus on your own relation to the inquiries, but it involves other people into the inquiries and invites them as co-inquirers as well as co-subjects. Third- person research/practice aims to create a broader community that is able to include people who are in the wider interpersonal network, which means that it involves people outside the group into the inquiries to create a wider community. The articles of Reason (2002), Mead (2002) and Parent and Béliveau (2007) introduce different forms of action research, co-operative inquiry and learning history.
I know you might still feel confused with how action research works in the reality. The three articles that I mentioned above do give examples of different methods, and these really help me understand how to use action research or for what topics you can use. I’ll talk more about them in the later post to give you more clear image of action research. So keep following my blog 😉
Here is a short video introducing action research that may help!!