Action Research: A Methodology for Change and Development

Action Research: A Methodology for Change and Development

Action Research: A Methodology for Change and Development

Action Research: A Methodology for Change and Development

Synopsis

This book presents a fresh view of action research as a methodology uniquely suited to researching the processes of innovation and change. Drawing on twenty-five years' experience of leading or facilitating action research projects, Bridget Somekh argues that action research can be a powerful systematic intervention, which goes beyond describing, analyzing and theorizing practices to reconstruct and transform those practices. The book examines action research into change in a range of educational settings, such as schools and classrooms, university departments, and a national evaluation of technology in schools. The opening chapter presents eight methodological principles and discusses key methodological issues. The focus then turns to action research in broader contexts such as 'southern' countries, health, business and management, and community development. Each chapter thereafter takes a specific research project as its starting point and critically reviews its design, relationships, knowledge outcomes, political engagement and impact. Action Research is important reading for postgraduate students and practitioner researchers in education, health and management, as well as those in government agencies and charities who wish to research and evaluate change and development initiatives. It is also valuable for pre-service and in-service training of professionals such as teachers, nurses and managers.

Excerpt

This book is about the many ways in which social science researchers can use action research methodology to overcome the limitations of traditional methodologies when researching changing situations. Action research combines research into substantive issues, such as how to improve the quality of children's learning in a state-maintained education system or how to give good access to health care to all members of a community with research into the process of development in order to deepen understanding of the enablers of, and barriers to, change. It is a means whereby research can become a systematic intervention, going beyond describing, analysing and theorizing social practices to working in partnership with participants to reconstruct and transform those practices. It promotes equality between researchers from outside the site of practice and practitioner-researchers from inside, working together with the aspiration to carry out research as professionals, with skilful and reflexive methods and ethical sensitivity.

Change is an inevitable and continuous process in social situations, locally, nationally, globally … the problem is to understand the extent to which we can have any control over its nature (what kinds of things the change involves) and its direction (where it is taking us). This is particularly important when there is a deliberate attempt to introduce something new in order to bring about improvement. Because of the complexity of human experience and social relationships and institutions, it will probably always be impossible to plan changes and implement them exactly as intended, but action research provides a means of generating knowledge about the implementation of the initiative and using this to keep it on track as far as possible. It is a methodology integrating social science inquiry with participants' practical action so that all concerned have a sense of agency rather than constructing themselves as powerless.

In this book I am presuming that readers will already be familiar with much of the existing literature on action research. My aim is to build on the considerable body of knowledge about, and experience of conducting . . .

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