Constituency building and group facilitation

18-minute video = Unscripted thoughts about the relationship between constituency building and group facilitation in Action Research,


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, 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 (Use tag cloud or category “Group Process” to select relevant posts)

Cycles and Epicycles of Action Research: Elaboration and Useful Tools

Elaboration on the Aspects of Action Research
in the Cycles and Epicycles framework.  Tools useful in the different aspects of Action research are described through the links further down in the post. Read more of this post

Action Research: A cycles and epicycles framework

Action Research begins when you (as an individual or as a group) want to do something to change the current situation, that is, to take action.

  • “Action” refers to many different things: a new or revised curriculum; a new organizational arrangement, policy, or procedure in educational settings; equivalent changes in other professions, workplaces, or communities; changes in personal practices, and so on.

Action Research then progresses through stages of Planning and Implementing some Action to Evaluation of its Effects, that is, Research to show what ways the situation after the action differs from the way it was before.

To this traditional 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 and 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. Constituency-building happens over time like the basic cycle of Action Research, so we can think of this a second cycle. The other additions, 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.

In what follows, I expand on this brief introduction, then in the next post elaborate on the key Aspects of Action Research and list the Tools useful in the different aspects of Action Research. This text is deliberately brief–a summary more than a detailed guide–because it is primarily through experience conducting Action Research and practice using the tools that the interplay between the cycles and epicycles become clear. (See also a step-by-step presentation of this framework).

Again, Action Research begins when you (as an individual or as a group) want to do something to change the current situation, that is, to take action. To move from a broad idea of the action you think is needed to a more refined and do-able proposal, you may need to review evaluations of the effects of past actions (including possibly evaluations of actions you have made) and to conduct background inquiry so you can take into account other relevant considerations (e.g., who funds or sponsors these kinds of changes and evaluations). You also have to get people—yourself included—to adopt or adapt your proposals, that is, you have to build a constituency for any actions. Constituency building happens when you draw people into reflection, dialogue, and other participatory processes that elicit ideas about the current situation, clarify objectives, and generate ideas and plans to take action to improve it; when people work together to implement actions; and when people see evaluations of how good the actions/changes were in achieving the objectives. Evaluation of the effects of a change or action can lead to new or revised ideas about further changes and about how to build a constituency around them, thus stimulating ongoing cycles of action research.
These cycles are not a steady progression one step to the next. Reflection and dialogue “epicycles” at any point can lead to you to revisit and revise the ideas you had about what change is needed and about how to build a constituency to implement the change. Revision also happens when, before you settle on what actions to pursue, you move “backwards” and look at evaluations of past actions and conduct other background inquiry. Revision can also happen when you look ahead at what may be involved in implementing or evaluating proposed actions and building a constituency around them. Such looking ahead is one of the essential features of planning.

In summary, action research involves evaluation and inquiry, reflection and dialogue, constituency building, looking ahead and revision in order to clarify what to change, get actions implemented, take stock of the outcomes, and continue developing your efforts.

Of course, as is the case with all evaluations and research more generally, there is no guarantee that the results of Action Research will influence relevant people and groups (“stakeholders”), but constituency building–including dialogue and reflection on the implications of the results–provides a good basis for mobilizing support and addressing (potential) opposition in the politics of applied research and evaluation.

Extracted from Taking Yourself Seriously: A Fieldbook of Processes of Research and Engagement

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