Are we there yet? Historical scan from biographical origins of Action Research teaching

Informed by the section of Noah Rubin’s unpublished Ph.D. dissertation about the teaching in my Action Research course and the background I bring to it, I asked students to prepare a historical scan on my behalf.  This post presents the instructions and the result I produced.

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Constituency building and group facilitation

18-minute video = Unscripted thoughts about the relationship between constituency building and group facilitation in Action Research, http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/ActionResearchEpi_Cycles.html

On methods: The need for dialogue and reflective practice

The conventional status hierarchy for methods of research could (should?) be inverted.

It is conventional for social science and education doctoral programs to include courses on quantitative methods (statistics and perhaps survey and experimental design).  Sometimes such courses are supplemented by qualitative methods.  Action Research may be mentioned, but the value given to the products of Action Research is lower to the extent that there are multiple authors, including non-academics, and distributed in non-academic venues (e.g., reports, meetings).  Moreover, tools and processes for dialogue, collaboration, and reflective practice are rarely if ever included in methods courses.  After all, how are they related to evidence-based practice?  Let us consider where this status hierarchy gets us. Read more of this post

Evaluation of educational change

These notes capture the state of evolution at the end of Spring ’01 of a graduate course on Evaluation of Educational Change that later became Action Research for Educational, Professional and Personal Change (using a framework described in the book Taking Yourself Seriously, http://bit.ly/TYS2012). Read more of this post

On gaps

What leads a person to do something different, to be creative?  It is said that design begins with a gap in the user’s experience (Ulrich 2011).  However, we might note that a person only experiences as a gap something they experience as a gap.  (The “objective” gap that a third party could point to is not necessarily a gap “subjectively” for the person.)  Moreover, if the experience of a gap is not accompanied by a sense that something can be designed and used to bridge the gap, then it can slip out of the person’s day-to-day attention. Read more of this post

Modes of creative learning in microworlds, messyworlds, and the real world

The items in this table are not intended to be comprehensive or be self-explanatory (thus the sources as entry-points at the bottom).  The schematic contrasts are, however, intended to stimulate discussion about the different kinds of creativity that are experienced in relation to the structure and boundaries of the different spaces of learning and action.

Space Microworld Messy World Real world
Examples Scratch, Turtle Project-based learning (PBL), Collaborative explorations Internships, apprenticeships, work, activist organizations, living in general
Tools Pre-built, available online Cases or scenarios in which problems are not well defined Action Research Cycles & Epicycles framework
Processes The tools’ simple rules allow wide diversity of products (like “generative grammar”) Define questions for inquiry relevant to the participant’s work & lives.Check-in & sharing each session; end with taking stock (e.g, Critical Incident Questionnaires). Action Research traditionally progresses from evaluations of previous actions -> stages of planning and implementing some action -> evaluation of its effects.  Add to this basic cycle: reflection & dialogue; building a constituency to implement the change; inquiring into the background; looking ahead to future stages.
Connections (among participants) Free borrowing from shared material; Timely help from others; Admiration for products of others Through listening well to each other, and to oneself, providing +delta feedback and references/referrals, and pacing/inspiring each other. Constituency-building.Also: Friendships, give or take risks to initiate new friendships or end relationships; Negotiating paths within the politics of unequal access to resources
Contributions to the Topic or field Not required, but anything is made by individuals with acknowledgement. Separate contributions from participants, but linked to the case. Change, based in research & constituency-building, implemented & evaluated.
Experience in relation to Carry over into subsequent learning, work, and living Experience of being creative -> desire to continue playing in the microworld.But the experience is dependent on the insulation of the microworld from messy world or real world complexities. Experience of learning and synthesizing -> further digestion & directions for inquiry.  It is no longer possible to simply continue along previous lines.But the experience happens within a “container” and is not tested by application and constituency-building in real world.When ready, participate again with positive, but circumscribed expectations. “What we come out with is very likely to be larger and more durable than what any one person came in with; the more so, the more voices that are brought out by the process.”Evaluation of the effects of an action or change can lead to new or revised ideas about further changes and about how to build a constituency around them, thus stimulating ongoing cycles & epicycles of Action Research.
Sources http://learn.media.mit.edu https://pcrcr.wordpress.com (Use tag cloud or category “Group Process” to select relevant posts) http://bit.ly/113g2dg

On tinkering

The scratch homework for the LCL course (see previous post) certainly roped me into tinkering, but, once I was finished and uploaded my working first scratch piece, I got to thinking about tinkering in other approaches to learning that, like LCL, also emphasizes meaningfulness and social interactions, namely, action research and problem- or project-based learning (PBL). My initial thoughts are that:
1. The physical or programming aspect of marshmallow challenges and scratch hooked me into persisting until I got the things to work. PBL as used in professional education (e.g., vet. school) may have a similar effect because there is an answer to be found (e.g., the correct diagnosis and treatment).
2. But that’s not the case with the kind of PBL that I teach, which begins from a scenario in which the problems are not well defined (http://bit.ly/XVjqBF). Students brainstorm so as to identify a range of problems related to the scenario and choose which of these they want to investigate and report back on. Some tinkering is definitely a feature of these PBLs in that the problem-definitions typically evolve as students investigate and exchange findings with peers.
3. There is a lot of tinkering in Action Research, in the “cycles and epicycles” framework I teach (Taylor and Szteiter 2012). To the familiar basic cycle of Action Research we can “add reflection and dialogue through which you review and revise the ideas you have about what action is needed as well as your ideas about how to build a constituency to implement the change. Your thinking about what the situation is and what needs changing can also be altered by inquiring into the background (e.g., what motivates you to change this situation?) as well as looking ahead to future stages. Just like the basic cycle of Action Research, constituency building happens over time, so we can think of this a second cycle. The other additions above, however, often make us go back and revisit what had seemed clear and settled, so we can call these the epicycles (i.e., cycles on top of cycles) of Action Research. The composite of all these factors is conveyed in” http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/ARcycling2.html. The question is can we elicit in such Action Research persisting until we get the thing to work?

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