By Hilary Bradbury
Do action researchers have something to offer to the contemporary and urgent question of how to respond to complex real-world problems? I think so.
Action researchers, often working in inter-disciplinary settings, hold in mind that technical, practical and emancipatory goals of action research require us to develop facility in communicating with two audiences: the ‘local’ practitioners and the ‘cosmopolitan’ community of scholars.
Let’s start with the latter. The cosmopolitans are motivated by the question of what, if anything, can be contributed to what scholars already know. As a result these academic colleagues usually privilege the written medium exclusively. The local audience, however, is not served when action researchers write a manuscript intended for scholarly peers!
Communicating with practitioners involved in the nitty gritty of real world problems will be shaped by their professional or cultural expectations. As a rule of thumb, I find that practitioners are more readily engaged by story and multimedia reports to which their reaction may then be invited.
Generally speaking, action researchers ought to find ways to communicate with the local community first, using this as an opportunity for validating and disseminating local learning.
In some early public musings on what constitutes quality in action research (Bradbury 2010), I suggested that quality:
- develops from action research praxis of participation with practitioners;
- is guided by locals’ concerns for practical results;
- is inclusive of stakeholders’ ways of knowing, which means letting go the conventional over-emphasis of rational frameworks;
- helps to build capacity for ongoing change efforts; and,
- results from choosing to engage with those issues people might consider significant; from asking “how do we accomplish more good together?“.
Good action research is very time consuming, so I suggest that we should not waste time on trifling matters.
Furthermore, action researchers do not pretend to be value neutral. This moment in history asks us to authentically respond to the huge need to seed more learning processes.
What has your experience been with action research? What would you recommend to achieve quality action research?
Bradbury Huang, H. (2010). What is good action research? Why the resurgent interest?” Action Research, 8, 1: 93-109.
Biography: Hilary Bradbury Ph.D. is Founding Principal of AR+ | Action Research Plus: a network for Action Research worldwide. She has edited or co-edited three editions of the ‘Handbook of Action Research’ and is Editor-in-Chief of the journal ‘Action Research’. She is Jubilee Professor at Chalmers Institute for Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.
AR+ has recently released two volumes of Cooking with Action Research. One volume covers stories and resources and the other is a resources guide.