Explication of Tacit Knowledge in Higher Education Institutional Research through the Criteria of Professional Practice Action Research Approach: A Focus Group Case Study at an Australian University

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper examines the role of employing reflective professional practice action research as an approach in the evaluation of the explication of tacit knowledge. The paper also presents an account of personal experiences as a heuristically critical reflective practitioner while acting as a knowledge management consultant. Moreover, personal experiences as an academic faculty member and researcher are indicated.

Moreover, this paper discusses the roles of developing reflective skills and the processes employed in conducting Critical Institutional Professional Research (CIPR). In recent years there has been an increase interest in the nature of CIPR research and the development of methodologies to explore this subject (Peterson, 2000). One area of controversy between CIPR research and the traditional Institutional Professional Research (IPR) research is the role of 'reflective practice,' which remains under-developed (Light & Cox, 2001). In this paper, the importance of reflective practice employing the term 'living thesis paradigm' as a means of developing expert research methods is explored.

The first section of this paper introduces the literature of reflective practice, which argues for the validity of a reflective practice inquiry and involves the using of the living thesis paradigm inquiry. The living thesis paradigm inquiry involves a heuristic autobiographical self-study with a reflexively phenomenological approach influenced by an analytical psychology and uses a writing style influenced by postmodern perspectives. In this paradigm inquiry, the emphasis is on conducting in-depth and wide ranging reflection of the empirical material in order to collect heuristic impressions, or insights, or both that have an effect upon the authors' personal relationships and relationships with all involved in conducting the research. Through the stages of this paradigm inquiry, deep understandings are sought that can illuminate the situation, thus providing meaningful communication and inspiring appropriate actions (Wong, 2003a). This is followed by descriptions and a justification for a reflective practitioner's writing style. The second section discusses the research methodology used here, and the third section discusses the focus group case study of doctoral candidates employing the living thesis paradigm within reflective practices in investigating the explication of tacit knowledge. The last section of this paper identifies areas for future research.

What is a Reflective Practitioner?

Schon (1983) and Moon (2000) described a reflective practitioner as someone who is simply thoughtful about his or her own practice. From this notion, they indicated that reflective practice involves the mental process of reflecting, which may or may not be characterized by what is called 'being reflective.' They also considered a reflective practitioner as a person who has a selfimage as a facilitator, where there is an important recognition of the uncertainties within a profession. Moreover, they considered a reflective practitioner as someone who has the necessary active professional knowledge, coupled with an awareness of the professional problems requiring resolution within their actual professional business practice. This reflective practitioner copes with these problems by putting the client-advisor relationship at the center of their business practice. This is an attempt to develop shared reflective negotiated meanings and understandings as a joint business process with their clients. A person with a self-image as a facilitator, recognizing the uncertainty within a profession, has the knowledge base of a member of his/her profession and is aware of the problems that need to be resolved in any professional practice. To succeed the reflective practitioner deals with this uncertainty by putting client relationships at the centre of his/her professional practices with attempts to develop negotiated shared meanings and understandings as a joint process, all of which require reflection. …