ACTION RESEARCH AND REFLECTIVE PRACTICE Scott and Usher Summary of Ian Bryant’s Chapter By Sunny and Vicky Deol
Introduction • Action research and reflective practice have become very popular within educational circles. • In this article Bryant will attempt to explain why the ideas of action research are not entirely satisfactory for him. • In the article Bryant will answer the following questions: 1) What exactly are the ideas behind reflective practice and action research? 2) Why are these ideas so attractive? 3) What meanings can we give to the terms action research and reflective practice? 4) How are action research and reflective practice related?
Introduction Continued • Bryant highlights certain issues to be considered before committing to action research. Such as: • Dealing with the risks involved • Challenges to the validity of the enterprise • Problems associated with generalizing, documenting and reporting of findings
Brief History • Action Research has only a fifty year old history. • A model developed by Kurt Lewin in 1948 described action research as a spiral of conceptual discovery. - Lewin’s model made a distinction between the individuals doing the research and the groups being researched. - Lewin’s theories were set in a positivist applications paradigm for the next twenty years. • Until the late 1960’s the field was dominated by theories of structural functionalism and the methodologies of experimentalism and survey analysis.
Brief History Continued • By 1970 action research was being criticized for focusing too exclusively on the existence of a client with a problem to be solved at the expense of scientific interests. • By 1981 practitioner dissatisfaction led to new action research procedures being developed that were distinct from scientific research. • Some practical reasons for action research to be a favored style in educational research are: - it promises value for money and practical results - it offers a mode of enquiry and understanding - it is educational in emphasizing the learning aspects of reflective practice
Accommodative Action Research – Cohen and Manion • Cohen and Manion define action research as a style of research which is situational, collaborative, participatory and self-evaluative. • compared to applied research, action research interprets the scientific method much more loosely, chiefly because its focus is a specific problem in a specific setting. • action research relies mainly on observational and behavioral data.
Accommodative Action Research Continued • Problems with Cohen and Manion’s account of action research according to Bryant: - no mention of reflection or critique (there is a belief that critique will hold in most cases because of relaxed definition of the scientific method) - the data is very specific to the situation, therefore it is hard to generalize and validate beyond the specific case
Educational Action Research as a Critical Social Science – Carr and Kemmis • Carr and Kemmis say action research is a form of research carried out by practitioners into their own practices. - action research is a participatory, democratic form of educational research for educational improvement, - action research is seen as a form of practical enquiry characterized by a self-reflecting spiral of cycles of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting - emphasizes practices as committed action, or praxis - action research expresses a commitment to the improvement of practices not to argue for or against a theory
Carr and Kemmis Continued • Educational reform is in the hands of those involved in the action thus producing three variants of action research • Technical action research- concerned with relative efficiency and effectiveness of practice. • Practical action research- aims at the improvement of the practitioners understandings and action • Emancipatory action research- group takes responsibility for its own emancipation from the dictates of irrational unjust habits.
Carr and Kemmis Continued • Action research aims at improvement in 3 areas 1) improvement of practice 2) improvement of the understanding of the practice by the practitioners 3) improvement of situation in which the practice takes place • Problems with Carr and Kemmis’ definition of action research according to Bryant. - Bryant says that Carr and Kemmis include reflection as a part of their idea of action research which is action research being a spiral of practitioner research activity but they don’t base it on a theory.
Principles for the Conduct of Action Research -- Winter • Winter agrees with Carr and Kemmis’defintion of action research. • Winter believes there is a problem to cast action research within a positivist's perspective. • According to Winter reflection is a very important in making sense of evidence. • The process of reflection itself needs a model to build upon the competences which practitioners already possess.
Winter Continued • Winter’s 6 principles proposed as a criteria for assessing the validity of action research. • reflexive critique (by questioning things new arguments can be made and there is a possibility for new actions) • dialectical critique (discussion of different reflective interpretations of practice) • collaborative resource (intersubjectively working together to validate views) • risk (micropolitics of research process, consideration of ethics) • plural structure (discusses questions about different views and reporting considerations) • theory practice transformation (theory and practice are not opposed in action research)
Winter Continued • Problems with Winter’s definition of action research according to Bryant is that there is nothing that clearly distinguishes action research from reflective practice.
Action Research and the Reflective Practitioner • Ebbutt defines action research as involving the systematic study of attempts to change and improve educational practice by groups of participants by means of their own practical actions and by means of their own reflection upon the effects of these actions. • Bryant believes this definition is the most useful because: - it emphasizes that researchers are participating in the study - when it uses the words “change” and “improve” it emphasizes how important it is to improve practice in action research by changing the practice situation - there is an emphasis to reflect on the effects of the action - the words “systematic study” tells us that action research is still a type of research
Action Research and the Reflective Practice Continued • Donald Schon states in action research there is relationship between change and understanding. - he believes the practitioner has an interest in changing the situation from the status quo to something he likes better, and also in understanding the situation - he sees action research as akin to reflection-in- action (action research is something that any practitioner can do as a part of his everyday practice, and it does not just imply to researchers)
Some Suggestions for Thinking About Aspects of Practice • Bryant states that there are many themes and aspects of practice to question about action research before even looking at any theories. They are: - settings (where the activities are taking place) - play (looking at ideas in terms of a game where there are rules; these rules can be both enabling and constraining) - scripts (texts that identify but don’t completely define performance; allows monitoring of performance when there are problems with practice) - Communication (there can be different interpretations of meanings)