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									CSS 506


• History and evolution • Attributes • Methodology • Disciplines involved • Strengths and weaknesses • Two examples


on your feet”

• Has always been linked with social
change for social justice (McNiff and Whitehead, 2006). • Asks the question: How can the situation be understood, and how can it be changed?

Action Research
• John Collier – Commissioner of Bureau of Indian
Affairs in 1930s: First to examine group work and explore ways to achieve better results. Kurt Lewin – 1940s: People are more motivated to work when they are involved in the decisionmaking process. Coined phrase “Action Research.” Began as an approach to management (and manager) development


Action Research
• Stephen M. Corey (1950‟s) • “The teacher had only one year experience…
Which she repeated for thirty years.” (Corey, 1954) Early work devoted to Education:

-Action Research to Improve School Practices. Corey, Stephen, 1953. Teachers College, Columbia University, NY. -Children‟s Social Values. Foshay, A. and Kenneth D. Wann, 1954. Teachers College, Columbia University, NY.

Action Research
• Donald ShÖn (1960‟s and 70‟s) • SchÖn‟s central argument was that

„change‟ was a fundamental feature of modern life and that it is necessary to develop social systems that could learn and adapt. • Used the term “thinking on your feet.”

Action Research: Cycle of Steps
• Observe • Reflect • Act • Evaluate • Modify

Action Research Cycle

Attributes of Action Research
• Shared ownership of research projects • Community-based analysis of social
problems • Orientation towards community action • Value-laden • Led by “practitioners” • Open-ended

Action Research
• Goal of Action Research: perceived
functionality of chosen actions to produce desirable consequences for an organization. • Action Research facilitates the development of techniques on how to review, revise and redefine the effort in which we are a part.

Common Names for Action Research
• • • • • • • • •
Action Research Action Science Participatory Action Research Collaborative Action Research Advocacy Participatory Research Transformative Emancipatory Research Practice-Directed Research Participatory Research Participatory Inquiry

Context of Development
• Aloof scientists, irrelevant research and • •

disconnected practitioners. Existence of obvious social problems and a desire to act/for action, but unsure how to act. Recognize situational, non-discrete systems within systems and need for integrated approach and enduring resolution (unlike small scale
biophysical systems).

Current Methodology
• All are scientists/co-researchers • Connected practitioners and public • Complex problems requires lots of resources, •

not just “experts.” Relevance – stakeholder involvement, planning/collaboration incorporates desires or negotiated outcomes, reduces long-term conflict. More of an interdependent approach.

Two schools of Action Research; both disassociate themselves with traditional research:
1. Practice-directed Research 2. Emancipatory Action Research

Action Research is not defined by its methodology but by the engagement of the participants. • Those driven by the “researcher‟s” agenda to those driven by participants • Those motivated by goal attainment to those motivated by personal, organizational, or societal transformation • 1st-person research – my research on my own actions, aimed at personal change • 2nd-person research – our research on our group, aimed at improving the group • 3rd-person research – “scholarly” research, aimed at theoretical generalization and large scale change.

• Interviews • Mapping • Participatory Planning • Conducting research, then taking action v.
taking action and collecting data

Fields of Use
• Education • Health Care • Community/Rural Development • Agriculture and Natural Resources • Geography • Architecture/Landscape Architecture • Planning

“If small rural communities improve their leadership systems, then these communities will be able to take action on poverty reduction.”

Examples in CSS: Windward Islands Ecotourism Development
• Stakeholders included environmental groups, representatives of • • • •
local governments, community organizations, women‟s and youth groups, farmers, private business owners Two action researchers from Toronto were hired to facilitate process A conference was organized on each island with the stakeholders The outcome of these was a set of recommendations for carrying out nature tourism oriented projects at the local community level Regular regional meetings were held for evaluations and to ensure that the process continued Three of the four islands were relatively successful. The fourth was stifled by the local government who felt that power relationships were changing.


• User-friendly and accessible to
professional practitioners and laypeople • Can improve and enhance quality of life for participants • Inclusive • Extends knowledge base • May alleviate interconnected problems • May transform power systems

Criticisms: Methodologies
• • • •
• • •
Rigor Validity Action Research is a “poor reporter” Methodology in Action Research lags behind its development in practice Inability to capture the “richness of events: the dynamics, encounters, emotions and shifts. “Double-challenge” of time: pressure for more “real time” discovery on the one hand, and longterm, “evidence based” learning on the other. Nuances of cases are difficult to debate, learn from, generalize and diffuse.

Criticisms: Approaches
• Is participation always good? • Is participation always empowering? • “Consultation Fatigue” • Techniques may reinforce informal social
structures that are potentially negative • Participation is rarely fully employed

• Action Research is
cyclical • Paradigm of Praxis? • Methodology(ies) continue to evolve

1. Introductions 2. Decision Making Impact 3. How are you going to discover

the impact that Walmart will have on your community? What are specific methods you will use to gain this information?

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