This is intended as a shared workspace for Bob Dick's email course "AREOL" (though it is also open to anyone who finds it!). If you've any questions about this page, or how to use it, please contact me, Cormac Lawler, on my "talk" page. For help on using wikis, please see Wikiversity:Introduction or one of the help pages.
Below are some question-headings that I thought might be useful to get us started - please feel free to add, subtract, comment on and/or critique anything on this page, or by leaving comments on its "talk" (or "discussion") page. Perhaps you think that the questions below are too imprecise and you feel like they should be changed. Well, you can do so by editing this page - either by clicking that link, or by clicking the "edit this page" tab at the top of any wiki page...
A draft "charter" for this group is in development on the talk page.
Goals of this project
This is for listing general goals of the project - you can also add your own personal goals in the "Participants" section.
- To research and produce collaborative definitions of concepts like "Action Research" ...
- To outline links to theoretical concepts and research topics.
Topics to discuss
Add ideas for topics here - should these be on individual pages?
- Action research
- Reflection in Action Research
- Organisational learning
- Action research/AREOL25/Reflections - reflections of the course's participants
What is Action Research?
Action Research is simply a term used to describe a particular application of research. In fact it is not much different from other forms of social research or indeed any type of research which aims at process-improvement except in that it possesses all of the following characteristics.
- Aims to drive change as a consequence of research, analysis, planning and implementation
- Organises reciprocal or alternating episodes of research and action (amongst items that are logically related to each other)
- Involves stakeholders as participants throughout various phases of the overall process.
There is also considerable emphasis on reflection and progressive adaptation to circumstances as defining characteristics of Action Research. There is probably always going to be some debate about how precisely these matters need to be defined.
220.127.116.11 07:45, 28 March 2007 (UTC) David Don
Is all research Action Research?
Several criterion might be proposed as defining attributes of Action Research. The most obvious of these is a reciprocal relationship between stages of information gathering and steps taken to modify processes and resources to improve or alter outcomes, including unintended consequences for people working 'within' the system. This method of operation involves planning and checking stages too and tends to be repetitive.
- The PAOR (or PDCA) cycle and variants thereof are essential characteristics of Action Research
- The purpose of engaging in cycles of Action Research is change.
Interestingly, because the goal of Action Research can be to alter its impact on those who operate within the system and to improve the products and services provided to users, it tends to be assumed that Action Research must be inclusive of all Stakeholders. There are those who argue that it is necessary to involve those who use the outputs of the system or who are subject to them (particularly the later) in order for a project to qualify as an Action Research Project. This is debatable and it is generally held that an essential criterion of Action Research is:
- That relevant Stakeholders participate in the Action Research project.
Unfortunately, from the definitional point of view, the extent to which Stakeholders need to participate in an Action Research project is not clear cut either. Stakeholders might be involved in the work associated with each stage of the unfolding PAOR cycle but need not participate in all stages and at all times. Similarly, there are no clear cut criteria that we can apply to describe the nature of Stakeholder involvement in a project to use as a guide line for determining whether or not it is Action Research.
We might say that:
- It is desirable that Stakeholders be involved in the Action Research process as fully as is practicable or as fully as their needs, interest and capacity allow, given the goals of the project overall and its sub-goals at each stage of its unfolding.
This matter needs to be clarified as at 13 March 2007
18.104.22.168 02:31, 14 March 2007 (UTC) David Don
Stakeholders and participation
Issues around stakeholder participation can be construed as a resource optimisation problem. This note makes some suggestions that may help you to reach well-balanced decisions about the level and type of involvement to aim for with each stakeholder.
It isn't always feasible or even necessarily desirable to involve all stakeholders in all aspects of an action research project. Indeed choices have to be made whenever time, money and/ or other constraints limit the scope and/ or coverage of an Action research project or indeed the methods to be used. There will always be certain people or groups you need to include at some point in the project but using a systematic approach to make decisions about involvement will help to optimise the efficiency and effectiveness of the project, overall.
Stakeholders comprise those individuals and groups who might be affected by a change to the type, level and/ or combination of resources that are subject to some form of processing or by changes to work-practices and/ or the direct outputs and ‘knock-on’ affects of the system under study.
After identifying stakeholders the next major decision lies around determining the type and level of involvement of various people in the project. This necessarily involves making ‘trade-off’ decisions even if they are done unwittingly.
Trade-off decisions require us to think in terms of (a) the contribution that each stakeholder might be able to make and (b) the total cost associated with involving each Stakeholder (cost of involvement). The following method of comparing ‘contribution’ and ‘cost’ aims to identify those circumstances where cost might exceed contribution so that they can be flagged for explicit consideration.
Determine where trade-offs can be made
Action research involves many different types of activities and it is open to influences which can affect its processes and outcomes. We can classify these aspects of Action research and use them as a framework to help us make trade-offs.
The first stage in the trade-off process requires thinking about the expected value of contributions in each area of concern. Using a rating scale can help to make it easier to assess the value of involving each stakeholder
Use the following scale to rate each stakeholders’ likely contributions to each aspect of the Action research project: None/ Low/ Medium/ High (or what you prefer).
- Help to identify and/ or clarify objectives/ help to scope the study
- Communicate information to stakeholders (pre-project, interim, pre-change, post-change/ address counter-communication)
- Recipient of communications (pre-project, interim, pre-change, post-change)
- Provide physical resources
- Provide skills or tools
- Facilitate access to informants (e.g. advertise, network, encourage others to participate, provide access to a list)
- Design the research
- Interview or otherwise facilitate data collection
- Provide information to meet the objectives of the study
- Process data/ transcribe
- Analyse data
- Interpret data
- Assess the implications
- Plan program changes
- Design program changes
- Implement program changes
- Monitor outcomes once change is implemented.
It may be desirable to add other factors into the assessment (e.g. resistance and source of complaint, political clout).
Now go thought the list for each stakeholder and do your rating of the likely cost of inclusion using the same scale (i.e. None/ Low/ Moderate/ High). Examine all those instances where the cost is high and consider whether or not there is a good reason to include the stakeholder at any point where cost exceeds contribution (this is of course subjective, which leaves you in control).
RULE OF THUMB 1: Never involve a Stakeholder in any aspect of an Action research project where the value of their contribution is zero and there is a significant cost unless there is a very good reason to.
RULE OF THUMB 2: Use your understanding of those circumstances where the cost of involving particular Stakeholders is likely to exceed the benefits to make conscious decisions about their involvement. However, as the costs of involvement are often dependent on the research design (including sampling), it may be necessary to go through several rounds of rating and it may be desirable to gather more information before you finalise a ‘Stakeholder involvement plan’.
This simple method of trade-off analysis is not perfect. Its purpose is to provide a systematic way of helping to decide on the inclusion of stakeholders in various aspects of an Action research project. Its major benefit might in its potential to stimulate us to think carefully about what we are doing and why.
How can Action Research be considered a "metamethodology"?
AR is rather a research strategy of "metamethodology" than a concrete set of rules and methods or a concise, clear-cut approach - e.g. it is neither strictly qualitative nor quantitative but embeds certail principles of stakeholder-participation and matual benefit of research and practice.--Stefanie 07:56, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
How can individuals learn through Action Research?
How can organisations learn through Action Research?
Areol participants and contributors
Also refer to the draft Charter for this learning group in the talk page link, noted above.
- Cormac Lawler: I would like to consolidate the many ideas I read in the lists' emails, and to keep them as interlinking themes within a set of wiki pages (thus reducing the need to trawl through the archives for themes brought up by individual people). I would also like to be able to produce some collaborative definitions of things like "Action Research", "Development", "Reflection" - and have these as things that we have produced through our learning here. I'm also just as interested finding out about how and why people participate here, as I am in those who don't participate - this is a central interest of mine in my PhD - if you've come here and felt like you can't participate, please feel free to email me about this.. Cormaggio beep 12:24, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
- Stefanie Panke: I am interested in creating a shared point of reference for discussions which are too far-fetched for the AEROL mailinglist - reacting to Bob's plea to reduce the quanitity of emails. This includes specific topics such as AR & digital artifacts - i.e. wikis, portals, blogs, social bookmarking. Plus, I think the wiki offers us a space to create a collaborative knowledge pool for future work - e.g. literature, definitions, ideas for thesis-projects, articles, etc.
- Sue Brown: I am interested in exploring a range of frameworks that are developed and called Action Research. My historical Action Research reference is based on Community Development theory and feminist action research methodology which reflects a very particular paradigm. I am really interested ans surprised in the 'mainstream' frameworks that are reflected in AEROL 25. Not sure the email approach will best meet my needs as I am strongly driven by process issues and I think I can participate more comfortably in this forum. Participation and decision making fascinating.
- David Don: I am pretty sure that a lot of the Quality Improvement and Market research work I've done in the Commercial world is close to Action Research. I am interested in formalising my understanding of AR and hope to apply what I learn to a project that will seek to provide on-going personal and career development web-based support for unemployed people who have completed Job Search Training (a requirement, in Australia, associated with receiving unemployment benefits for more than 6 weeks). Being somewhat superstitious I will say no more until the permission to develop the concept comes through.
- Helen Phelan: I really like the idea of using a wiki site for discussions - much more akin to a real-life self-directed learning group. I also am not so keen on the stream of emails so this seems a creative solution. I am new to the formal definitions etc of action research and am interested in exploring it as a tool/framework for communicating what I do and to have a formal way of presenting development, be it community,organisational, group or individual. My main approach is based on psychodrama and the work of J L Moreno. The methodology uses a systems perspective and its energy and validity comes from his theory of spontaneity and creativity. Until we have video-conference for everyone, I think wiki is the next best thing.Helen Phelan 02:02, 11 March 2007 (UTC)
- Sphoenix 14:46, 16 March 2007 (UTC) I am very new to this format but I have managed a chat room for a course I was teaching. I can't imagine that it's a whole lot different. When I first piloted the course, I had the idea that it would be a shared learning community so students posted bios, assignments, comments and gave feedback. I suppose it was a kind of Wiki although I had not heard about Wiki. This is a great way to learn and teach. I find the emails a bit hard to manage sometimes so this will work quite well. Not sure how the editing part will work for those not enrolled in areol 25. It'll be interesting. Looking forward to seeing and reading more bios. Sphoenix 14:46, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
- Dionysios (talk), a Particapant in the Wikiversity School of Advanced General Studies, Date: 2007-03-30 (March 30, 2007) Time: 190101 UTC
Please add links here as you find them or as you feel appropriate.