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action research

International Journal of Action Research


International Journal of Action Research, 2007, volume 3, issue 1+2  

Special Issue
On the Diversity of Action Research

First pages

Werner Fricke: Editorial     6-8

Øyvind Pålshaugen: Introduction - On the Diversity of Action Research     9-14


Marianne Kristiansen
Relational and Existential Challenges of Practicing Dialogic Action Research - Working with Social Concrete Blocks in Organizations     

Abstract: The article illustrates that there seems to be a fairly large distance between action research ideals of dialogue, democracy, participation, and involvement and the actual challenges we have met when practicing dialogic action research in hierarchical organizations where dialogue is always already embedded in organizational power relations. An overall purpose is to show that we are not only involved professionally as action researchers, but also challenged existentially as human beings when practicing dialogic action research. This has at least two consequences. One is about giving up knowing in advance. The other is about focusing on the quality of the relations with the participants, because this relationship seems to have critical impact on the quality of the results of dialogic action research projects. The article presents some concepts developed in dialogic action research projects in Danish, private and public organizations such as AR dilemmas, self-referentiality, emergent mutual involvement and not knowing, social concrete blocks, and the arbitrary punctuator.

Olav Eikeland
Why Should Mainstream Social Researchers Be Interested in Action Research?     

Abstract: The essay tries to argue why conventional researchers are obliged as researchers to be interested in certain forms of action research. The 60 years of ignorance have been illegitimate. The essay starts by listing two commonly encountered arguments paraphrasing Karl Marx and Francis Bacon via Kurt Lewin. It tries to show why a certain simplified reading of Marx cannot provide the necessary arguments. It then presents different variants of action research in order to single out approaches that according to this author require attention from mainstream social researchers. The action research approach emerging as central, by demonstrating its presence and effectiveness within mainstream research as well, is immanent critique. The method of research methodology is immanent critique. Immanent critique has to be demystified, however. When it is brought down to earth, immanent critique is really the kind of dialogical and experiential learning approach associated with apprenticeship learning and with organisational learning. This conclusion, making self-reflective practitioner-research the “hard-core” of action research, even internal to mainstream research, also requires a revision of the experimentalist-as-interventionist credo of action research.

John Shotter
With What Kind of Science Should Action Research Be Contrasted?     

Abstract: Action research is often criticized for not being properly based in objective facts or for not formulating testable theories, in short, for not being properly scientific. But with what kind of science should it be contrasted? Hanson (1958) distinguishes between finished, (classical) sciences and research sciences. Unlike a finished science that can be conducted by us as individuals within an already well formulated disciplinary discourse, a research science cannot. If it is to inquire into possibilities not yet actualized, it must be conducted in a much more situated, conversational manner. Thus as researchers, instead of functioning as detached observers, seeking to discover the invisible or ‘hidden’ causes of an observed event, we must operate in an ongoing real-time situation in a much more dialogical manner. For such dialogically-structured activity can, within the dynamics of its unfolding, give rise to transitory understandings and action guiding anticipations of a ‘situated’ kind, thus enabling all those involved in such activity to ‘go on’ with each other in unconfused ways. It is this participation in a shared grammar of felt, moment by moment changing expectations that are – in the interests of a decontextualized objectivity – precluded (or ‘lost’) within the disciplinary discourses of a finished science. Thus, guided by Wittgenstein’s (1953) writings in his later philosophy, I want to show in this article that, not only is it more accurate to compare action research with research sciences than with classical sciences, but that action research can find its intellectual legitimacy in the same sphere of human conduct as all of our sciences – in people being responsibly accountable for their own actions to the others around them in terms of their immediate relations to their shared surroundings.

Bjørn Gustavsen

Research Responses to Practical Challenges: What Can Action Research Contribute?      93-111

Abstract: During the last decade a major practical turn in research in general has been identified and made subject to discussion. One consequence is a growing interest in what action research can offer in this context. It is a mistake to assume that action research can produce theories of the same kind as conventional research but which are, in some way or other, more practical. The core contributions of action research pertain to how practical challenges are identified, and to how knowledge is made actionable through dialogically structured processes of interplay between research and practical actors. This, however, is not enough. Only when each dialogic process is able to grow in quality and number of actors involved, is the process able to verify its own power as a democratic mechanism.

Danilo R. Streck
Research and Social Transformation: Notes about Method and Methodology in Participatory Research    

Abstract: This text is a contribution to methodological reflection on research, based on the experience of a research team who explored various aspects of the participatory budget in the State of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil). It is situated within the context of participatory research, and deals with the following topics: method and methodology: the insertion of research and education within the same process of knowing; research and its ethical and political commitment; research as public action directed towards the constitution of the public sphere. The intense interaction in the research process, attending to the assemblies of the participatory budget in various municipalities, being present at council meetings, talking to communities and community leaders as well as participating in academic circles, contributed to understanding research as integrated within the movement of knowledge, values, cultures, worldviews, and above all, people towards the achievement of their goals.

Davydd Greenwood
Pragmatic Action Research     

Abstract: AR is not just one more social science “method”; it is a fundamentally different way of conducting research and social change work together. Participation in AR is not just a moral value but essential to successful AR because the complexities of the problems addressed require the knowledge and experience of a broad and diverse array of stakeholders. I argue that there is no one ideal form of AR and that what is useful is situationally dependent which is also why AR cannot respect or operate within the disciplinary boundaries or departmental structures of academic. For these reasons, Morten Levin and I prefer to call our work “pragmatic AR”. To complete the paper, I present two cases, one from industry and one from community development, to show how I practice pragmatic AR in context.

Bob Dick
Action Research as an Enhancement of Natural Problem Solving     

Abstract: I think of action research as an extension of a natural approach to problem solving. Faced with a novel situation we often first investigate. We then develop an intention to act, and carry it out. We notice if it worked. Action research similarly cycles between intention, action and review. To this natural process it adds certain important enhancements. The review component is strengthened. Rigour and theory are given more attention. More care is given to identify who else should be involved, and how. Flexibility is strengthened. A variety of processes are used, many borrowed from other literatures and practices. This paper begins with a broad overview of action research from this perspective. Different aspects of my own variations on this approach are then examined and described in more detail. As I examine my use of action research, I illustrate my comments with examples. Most of these are taken from a university class I facilitated for many years.

Margaret H. Vickers
Reflections from an Action Researcher: Why We Do What We Do     

Abstract: My reflections from the field are shared in an effort to assist others. I commence by describing a social problem that was the focus of an action research project. I then articulate the paradigmatic, methodological and method choices made. I share extracts of data collected during different stages of the project to illustrate cycles of learning, reflection, and the development of actionable knowledge. What is important for researchers who are contemplating choosing action research is to understand the philosophy behind their decisions; that they think carefully about “why we do what we do” in order to fully realise the outcomes of co-learning, developing actionable knowledge and, ultimately, making change.

Gill Coleman, Margaret Gearty
Making Space for Difference: The CARPP Approach to Action Research     

Abstract: At the Centre for Action Research in Professional Practice (CARPP), action research is embodied in a distinctive way that is eclectic and varied yet thematically coherent and values-based. This paper offers an articulation of this approach, using an experimental presentational form that combines descriptive storied form with analytical exploration. This exploration describes CARPP Action Research as the creation of ‘different spaces’ in which the action researcher/facilitator seeks to create qualities of boundedness, safety and validity, working with participants through cycles of action and reflection. Practices to engender such qualities are described and it is proposed that these offer an ‘emancipatory potential’ that, when realised, enables participants to take action outwards to the social and institutional settings of which they are a part. Two illustrative stories of practice are given, one describing how an MSc student in CARPP established an inquiry group, the other describing an action research programme with managers. The stories show how some of the qualities and values of the Centre are enacted through detailed practice that is sensitive to context. Links to critical theory are offered, and some questions as to the enduring consequences of such practice are considered.