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Over the years, there have been many suggested models on which action research can be based. A few of such models are discussed below. Where better to start but from the pioneer of Action Research, Kurt Lewis himself. Lewis introduced the concept of moving away from the sole academic aspect of research and analysing whether findings and theories truly work in practice. According to me, Action Research personalises a theory in terms of verifying whether it will be beneficial for a practitioner or group of practitioners and the manner in which they can improve.
According to Lewin,
‘Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice’
Lewin suggested four stages of an Action Research namely ‘planning, action and fact-finding about the result of the action’ (Lewin, 1947, pp 206). These steps would form part of a spiral of continuous Action Research. His approach seems to reflect that of Kolb’s Experiential Learning (1984). The spiral can be illustrated as follows:
This very much reflects the Action Research model that I currently use. Therefore, I have reviewed and analysed the action research models suggested by certain authors in an attempt to construct the Action Research model as I currently know it.
The first one to be analysed is Chris Argyris’ Action Science (1974,1978). Much of the work carried out by Argyris (1923-present) is about organisational learning. Among his most renowned collaborations is the one he had with Schon (1930-1997) and their work on Action Science (1974, 1978). The reasoning behind this model is that people have two theories: espoused theories which are based on their ideals and theories in use which are those that they actually use in their actual actions. They believed that by identifying the difference between these two, an individual will be able to achieve a certain level of learning.
They also elaborated on the concept of single-loop and double-loop learning. According to them, an individual has ‘governing variables'(Argyris,) (espoused and in use). In a given situation, he/she will build up an ‘action strategy’ (Argyris,) in an attempt to balance these variables. The action strategy will have ‘consequences’ (Argyris,) both intended and unintended. Argyris and Schon (1974,1978) suggest that the individual will learn if they reflect on the situation. If he/she reflects and changes the ‘action strategy’ they call it ‘single loop learning’. But if he/she is able to reflect and change the ‘governing variables’, they refer to the process as ‘double loop learning’.
Most learning is done in a single loop as very rarely is it seen that assumptions are challenged. Argyris and Schon’s views are very similar to the work of Dick and Dalmau’s information chain (1990), where apart the terminologies used; the same concepts seem to be underlying.
The single loop and double loop learning expressed by Argyris and Schon (1974,1978), are similar to Watslawick, Weakland and Fisch’s (1974) first order and second order change, where the former is about changing the existing norms and the latter is about changing the norms in the systems.
Conversely, Cohen (1976) did not believe that double loop learning is realistic because, according to him, changes in an organisation are not exactly easy to make. Fullan’s (2005) eight forces of leadership will, here, suggest the possibility of a double loop learnig to be achieved.
Argyris and Schon’s Action Science was very close to Torbert’s Action Inquiry`(2004). As the name suggests, Action Inquiry follows a particular inquiry: it can be regarding one’s professional development, the improvement of the organisation, personal improvement, among others. Tripp (2003) defines it as being:
“Action Inquiry is an umbrella term for the deliberate use of any kind of a plan, act, describe, review cycle for inquiry into action in a field of practice. Reflective practice, diagnostic practice, action learning, action research and researched action are all kinds of action inquiry.”
The method used is similar to Action Science. The theories in use are termed as action logics namely “Opportunist, Diplomat, Expert, Achiever, Leader, Individualist, Strategist, Magician, & Ironist” (Torbert, 2004). For both the authors, these theories are stages of development that the action researcher goes through to achieve improvement.
In the above two theories, I did not, however, come across any clarification on who is to implement the action and who is to research it. These roles were actually mentioned by Heron (1971) who proposed Cooperative Inquiry, which was later expanded with Reason (1981-1997). In this theory, both the researcher and the practitioner worked together towards improvement. It involves two action and two reflection stages. The first stage is a reflection stage where the practitioners group together to reflect on what needs to be changed and plan for the change. In stages two and three, they implement the plan, first within the group and then in real life and stage four is about reflection again (Heron and Reason, 1995).
Therefore, while Argyris and Schon (1974,1978) explained the ability to learn from the difference between espoused theory and theory in use and Torbert (2004) elaborated on the latter with his argument that such a learning is possible with any inquiry being researched (hence Action Inquiry), Heron and Reason (1981-1997) discussed how the learning from Action Inquiry can be maximised through Collaboration between the re. This is again very close to Participatory Action Research(PAR) (Kemmis and McTaggart, 1988,2000). The obvious difference between Cooperative (Heron and Reason,1981-1997) and Participatory Action Research (Kemmis and McTaggart, 1988,2000) is that in PAR the role of the participants and the researcher seem quite distinct whereas in Cooperative Inquiry (CI) no such distinction is noticed. In CI the participants seem to be the researchers. Reason (1994) in fact classifies these two (CI and PAR) as approaches to Participatory Inquiry. He also emphasises on another aim of PAR which is to empower people to be in control of their own development and that of the organisation (Reason, 1994). We seem to be reverting back around the same aspects of Action Research. In fact, Hugues and Seymour-Rolls(1995) identified the four moments of an Action Research as Reflection, Planning, Action and Observation.
According to Reason (1994), PAR is the method which is most widely used and it will be the one that I will use for the purpose of this report too. As he further suggests, the core of a PAR is the meetings held with the group.
Apart from the outcomes and decisions recorded in each meeting held, I will also reflect on them in terms of the roles each member took in the meeting.
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