Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Converting Research Findings into Action-Able Pattern-Languages

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Converting Research Findings into Action-Able Pattern-Languages

Article excerpt

Unless a specific action research methodology is adopted, most research projects tend to be considered complete once the findings are published, generally for the specific readership of academic or other professional journals. It is then up to practitioners, hopefully keeping abreast of the latest in their field, to pick up this work and translate it into ways which will assist in their day-to-day problem-solving activities. Further, the outcomes of even action research projects, by their nature, tend to be limited to the particular project participants.

However, and as referred to in a previous paper (Paine, 2015), we now often have no shortage of information about things. Rather, the need is to structure and translate that information into ways that encourage and stimulate the uptake of research findings by the wider non-research community. Increasingly, such structures also need to deal with and accommodate the complex (or "wicked") interactions and relationships that now characterize many contemporary issues, and in ways that are easily-understood by all.

This paper describes an approach adopted to address these needs within a specific research project. This research sought to develop useful lessons about personal behavior--in this case about the practice of living more sustainably at a household level--which could then be applied by others in their own lives. The research utilized an environmental education project ("Living Waters-Living Communities" - for details see: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/stormwater/casestudies/livingwaters.htm) being conducted by a local government authority. The project involved a series of discussion groups based on the learning-circle methodology wherein volunteer participants who had resolved to try and live "more sustainably" in their everyday lives worked together to resolve the practical dilemmas that then arose from this commitment. The research (as different from the environmental education project itself) sought to distil and express in an open easilyunderstood way practical lessons for others from the participants' experiences.

The research adopted an extended view of how pattern might be applied in research; specifically to move beyond the familiar attributes of pattern as used in analysis and synthesis of data and embrace additional attributes associated with other meanings of pattern. Educators and environmental scientists, Brown and Harris (2014) suggest for instance that the identification of the recurring patterns inherent within contemporary "wicked" problems (with their networked and recursive processes of cause and effect) will generate far more insightful understandings than those gained by more traditional inquiry, based as it is on linear and sequential causes and effects. Brown and Harris also include the idea of "pattern languages" in a list of tools they see as necessary to achieve a required more robust "transdisciplinary imagination" and "collective knowledge" able to address these types of problems and issues.

This extended view draws initially on the substantial on-going work of an architect, Christopher Alexander (1979; Alexander et al., 1977), who has worked to distil the complexities of our built and social environments into a series of manageable-scale lessons for the way we construct and manage those environments via necessarily small, individual, and on-going actions (i.e., construction activity). There are two related elements to this work. One is the conceptualization of issues and problems themselves as a pattern--being the tensioned relationship between each of the contributing or causal factors of that issue. In this conceptualization the solution to the issue also comprises a pattern, now the "shape" of those causal factors when "re-patterned" into a resolution (see Paine, 2015). The second element in Alexander's work is the "translation" of such solutions into another type of pattern--pattern as a guide or "lesson" for action, drawing on the familiar everyday notion of pattern as a mold or recipe or template (Alexander, 1979). …

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