Talk:Action research

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Wikimedia Foundation

Computer reclamation project[edit]

Some efforts are underway to circumvent the dumping of discarded computers and peripherals into landfills. [1] Many times, this equipment can be restored to working order at little or no cost using voluteer labor and open source software. The computers can then be donated for use by community groups, non-profits, schools or low-income families. Some Wikiverstans have discussed formalizing an action research project that will reflect on how this is being done around the world. One possibility that could lead to action is to form a "BLUG" (BSD/Linux User Group) at Wikiversity to advocate the use of open source in an organized effort to reclaim old computers. We would like to discuss the prospects here. Your thoughts are most welcome. CQ 16:43, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

Where would one find these computers being thrown away? Do we need to contact companies, or if we have old computers, is there a place to take them?--Rayc 18:54, 12 February 2007 (UTC)

Draft charter for the Wiki Action Research Study Group of Areol program #25[edit]

Moved to Talk:Action research/AREOL25

Variations on the PDCA cycle[edit]


There are many variations on the basic working methodology of Action research and other schools of thought that aim to improve the outcomes of process and systems. This article looks at these variations and considers the circumstances in which selection of a specialized methodology may be useful.

As the article is the product of the Wiki Action Research Study Group associated with Areol 25 it contains a mixture of consensus and divergent views. Also it is a work in progress and will change from time to time. Major revisions are highlighted.

The PDCA cycle

Action research creates a reciprocal link between research and action, i.e. it uses the quintessential PDCA model:

  • PLAN
  • DO
  • ACT.

In Action research there is also an emphasis on continuous 'reflection' but it is not unique in this.

The PDCA cycle is applied repeatedly and may be deployed concurrently so that different components of a system or process that is under study may be at different stages of the cycle at any time. Similarly different research projects related to these component parts may be at different stages at different times. Thus the analogy of a clock springs to mind - it is designed, built, tested, calibrated then does what it is wound to do.

[N] dd 00:13, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

David Don

[N] dd 00:12, 13 March 2007 (UTC) —The preceding unsigned comment was added by DavidWDon (talkcontribs) 00:11, 13 March 2007 (UTC). Then moved here from Help talk:Editing CQ 02:21, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

Reflective spiral reflections[edit]

(Copied from User talk:Cormaggio/Archive 3#Reflective spiral)

"..I found the spiral extremely interesting; see, I'm a computer scientist, and the life cycle of a software product can be very well described by it in every scale. And it has nothing to do with comp. sci.! When I realized it could, in fact, be applied to (nearly?) every project we engage into, in our lives, it fascinated me, and I put it in a place where I will always have it present =).

Reflect, and plan, prior to act and then evaluate. With the detail that the evaluation must be done in the social context (not analysing the business in place, with interviews if necesary, is the doom of many software projects).

Another implication f the spiral: no reflexion allowed before having carried out the last plan and evaluated it: Many many software projects and solidarity projects I've known have become blocked in a vicious spiral of planing, then reflecting about the plan, then redoing a better plan, then reflecting on it, etc, so no action was ever taken! Action is the primary goal of any project: it must not be avoided, even if you don't know for sure it will be optimal. Furthermore, as I learned when programming mobile robots, there can be too many things in which your model of reality (the output of reflection) differs from reality, and you can only discover them by actually doing something and evaluating it.

And of course, no action allowed without a meditated plan! That's the main failure of novice programmers. Teachers insist: "design your solution! draw diagrams!" But as they've never faced complex problems, they cannot see a reason to do it. It's only when the problems become more and more complex (and in computer science complexity has no limit, since new solutions lie over previous ones), only then do they begin to appreciate the design (planning) step prior to programming (acting). Those who do not, or who never learned to design, cannot go past a level of complexity imposed by our own limited brain. Their programs are like big balls of spaguetti.

Reflection is compulsory between evaluating and planing: When a program becomes too complex for humans to work with it and improve it (normally as a result of an acumulation of lack of documenting), programmers begin solving each error by inserting a patch specific for that error. This action (which is, by the way, seldom documented) increases further the complexity of the program, leading it to an irremediable destiny of blockage: Errors which cannot be solved begin to manifest, and the program (yet possibly usable) cannot be improved anymore without dismantling it. What has been the problem? Planing directly from the evaluation (the observed behavior of the error), without reflecting until discovering the ultimate cause of the error and then reflecting about how that cause can be eliminated. This situation also happens often when the deadline for the delivery of the project is nearing, and problems must be fixed in the quickest way, rather than in the proper way. It's risky because you cannot know if (by doing this) the program will become too complex for you to resolve all problems before the deadline. But it must be done for the happiness of the client, your boss, and, ultimately, your wife.

Sorry for being so lengthy, but I wanted to share why I loved that spiral so much =)! --Jorge 00:29, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

A Beginner's Guide to Action Research[edit]

Elsewhere in these pages, my correspondents have expressed some confusion about Action Research as I propose to apply it to specific projects.

In response to their request to explain Action Research, I thought it best to put the explanation here, where it ties into the main learning resource on the topic.

Let's begin at the very beginning, with the English Wikipedia definition of Action Research:

Action research is a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a "community of practice" to improve the way they address issues and solve problems. Action research can also be undertaken by larger organizations or institutions, assisted or guided by professional researchers, with the aim of improving their strategies, practices, and knowledge of the environments within which they practice.

The first thing to note is that the enterprise is embedded in a "community of practice" where everyone is working cooperatively and collaboratively as a team with a common goal (e.g. improvement of a problematic situation). The problem-solving process includes all stakeholders.

Contrast that with "Ivory Tower" research, where the researcher is distant and aloof from the subject of the research, intentionally minimizing the degree of contact or interference with the subject. A good example is traditional Cultural Anthropology where the researcher tries to minimize any perturbations of the culture being studied as a result of his or her presence. The opposite of "hands off" Anthropological study would be the religious zealot or missionary who actively tries to transform a culture without necessarily understanding or describing it scientifically, just the way it is. In Action Research, the researcher would be working cooperatively with the subjects to achieve a joint goal of solving the recognized problems of the community or system being studied.

Now let's drill down a notch and look at the definition on the main page here.

Action research is essentially research through action. It is usually a collaborative activity — involving input from people who are likely to be affected by the research — but this is not strictly necessary. Action research is about changing an environment, system, or practice, and learning about this context through changing it. To quote action research's instigator Kurt Lewin: "If you want truly to understand something, try to change it." This kind of work is not simply about changing, but also improving an environment. As John Elliott says, action research is “the study of a social situation with a view to improving the quality of action within it” (Elliott, p. 69).

So the "action" part means that the system being studied is (hopefully) going to be improved in the process, and this improvement is an express goal. Moreover the "inhabitants" of the system embrace this goal and cooperate and collaborate in the enterprise (or at least don't fight against it). In medicine, the doctor tries to recruit the cooperation of the patient as much as possible, but if the patient is too weak, the doctor proceeds unilaterally.

When I was studying Systems Theory at Stanford, there was yet another name for this kind of research. There (and elsewhere in management literature) it's called Operations Research. In the case of Operations Research, the subject is usually an organization or a business. The business operations are studied with a view toward improving them (or even optimizing them, if possible).

Here is yet another definition, from a seminal 1981 paper by my neighbor, Jerry Pine, who just retired as Dean of the Boston College School of Education:

As a collaborative process, action research begins when educational researchers, university faculty, and teachers assist each other in developing the skills to identify and conceptualize problems. The fundamental principle of collaborative research is that the research process is based on a system of discussion, investigation, and analysis in which the researched are as as much a part of the process as the researcher. Teachers, working with researchers in school situations, are in a position to observe and document actual life situations. A proposal is made for the formation of a collaborative action research team, consisting of undergraduate education students, interns, classroom teachers, and university faculty. An exploration of the research potential open to this team is made.

Clearly there are degrees of cooperation and participation which vary with the level of energy, enthusiasm, and trust. Spiritual torpor, cynicism, and wariness can become serious obstacles that undermine the teamwork in a project employing Action Research. Sometimes a leader has to carry the ball a long ways unassisted before the flagging spirits of others are revived. From this observation comes the admonition, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

In Action Research, the goal is to empower every stakeholder to be part of the solution.

Moulton 21:59, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

This is great - so why leave it to the backwater of a talk page? :-) I think this could be incorporated into the resource page, or perhaps a separate one more specifically targeted at your own 'audience', if you prefer... Cormaggio talk 12:44, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
By all means. I didn't want to just come galumphing in here like a swaggering know-it-all, since I'm hardly an expert on the subject of Action Research. But my neighbor, Jerry Pine, is an expert on the subject. His forthcoming book on Teacher Action Research, summarizing three decades of scholarly research on the subject, is coming out early next year. Once he's done poring over the galley proofs, I hope he will pay a visit here and help us craft an up-to-date synopsis of the subject. I saw him this morning, and he said he would send me some more carefully written definitions of the subject. —Moulton 15:48, 1 August 2008 (UTC)

Dealing with lost, reluctant, or recalcitrant "collaborators"[edit]

Occasionally someone shows up who acts like an anchor, a drag on progress. This might be a person who is uncomfortable if other members of the team are racing ahead. This might be the "I'm from Missouri" type who requires a demonstration of every concept, and who is skeptical of anything they don't yet fully understand.

For these individuals (and there will always be some), theory and analysis must give way at times to active demonstrations, ranging from multimedia skits and sketches to full blown psychodrama. I've never been a fan of psychodrama, but sometimes that's what it takes. I've occasionally seen a nominal "liminal social drama" morph into a lunatic psychodrama and then flower into something that would rival the Passion Story in terms of operatic depth and profundity. It's no accident that the original Passion Story involved the introduction of a New Covenant into the local culture.

Moulton 22:14, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

Ha! Though perhaps it's not a bad thing to be "lost" — I actually use this as a means of learning on Wikiversity — to push people to come more clean about what they mean, to probe further into what our theoretical frameworks are for suggesting a line of action, etc etc. I don't think we should ever be aloof from what it feels like to be lost, and what being lost can do for the process of innovation... Cormaggio talk 12:44, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
The difficulty is leading others out of the woods when 1) one isn't entirely confidant which pathway is best, and 2) the others don't trust their would-be guide to successfully lead them out of the woody swamp into the clearing. Then one has to do something called "leading from behind" which is quite an art. —Moulton 15:48, 1 August 2008 (UTC)

It is a nonsence[edit]

Action research is a nonsence. "Action research is about changing an environment, system, or practice, and learning about this context through changing it." It is a theory of a few people, but a bad theory. Show me some projects which were based on "action research". There are no projects, because the theory is a bad theory!--Juan 21:03, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

Did you mean to say nonscience or nonsense? —Moulton 21:44, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
Nonsense.--Juan 05:10, 20 August 2008 (UTC)
  • This is too simple, Juan. "Action research" is not nonsense - but it is a poor name for something important about collaborative editing environments and other evolving systems. --McCormack 21:34, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
Well if it is a feedback, than it is not a nonsence. But the definition sounds horrible.--Juan 05:10, 20 August 2008 (UTC)
There are several definitions. Which definition do you not understand? —Moulton 10:15, 20 August 2008 (UTC)
That one used in the summary of the page. But let me give some time, to penentrate inside a little bit Moulton.--Juan 16:32, 20 August 2008 (UTC)
I would be careful, Juan, in concluding that everything Moulton has been saying and doing in the name of "action research" is a fair characterisation of it. I'm not saying that Moulton has not been doing action research - I'm saying that he has been unclear about how he is actually using it, and has been applying it in many ways that I think do not do it justice. I'm currently hoping to make this a little clearer, to push Moulton into specifying exactly how he intends to use action research - as well as to hopefully make it clearer through my own work. :-) However, if you have criticisms of what's on this page, I'd like to hear them - I don't think I've explained it well enough, as I've seen repeated statements of confusion about action research on Wikiversity. Cormaggio talk 09:06, 12 September 2008 (UTC)
I repeat myself: if action research is a feedback, than I know what is it and I am not longer saying it is a nonsence. Thats logic.--Juan 11:21, 12 September 2008 (UTC)
Are you now satisfied and content with your level of apprehension and understanding of Action Research (both theory and practice), or do you have any remaining confusion or perplexity that you wish to clear up? —Moulton 14:39, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

Practicum, Pragma or Praxis[edit]

I think of action research as applied science, math and social agency under the direction of an academic entity. However elitist or equitable the dominant group behaves, action research contributes to the body of knowledge curated by the social agency created through the eventual progress toward the stated goals of the group. An increase in collective intelligence demonstrates one possible goal of action research. I wouldn't discount such a goal as a means of revolutionary activity leading to a fully liberated institutional framework. Any well-formed program in action research filters out nonsense as it proceeds. See SYZYGY17 and Paducah2020 for examples of action research practicums. These are real-world community-development praxis geared toward high-level communicative action intended to increase the collective intelligence of the Central United States. Thank you for paying attention. CQ (discusscontribs) 22:26, 8 May 2016 (UTC)