Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Humanization through Action Research as Methodology

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Humanization through Action Research as Methodology

Article excerpt

Qualitative research at the graduate level is commonly taught through a sequence of courses that entail a survey of literature, classroom discussion, instruction on methodology, and reviews of qualitative case studies. While these courses are intended to favor a constructivist approach, graduate students' voices pertaining to what, why, and for whom curricular materials are being implemented are missing. In other words, while graduate students may be engaging in purposeful course exercises such as mock interviews, observations, or analysis, authentic practice-based experiences are often lacking. Unless graduate students hold a research assistantship, little time, in advance of their independent thesis work, is allotted to immersing graduate students fully in the practice of conducting qualitative research, and more importantly, reflecting on their development as emerging qualitative researchers. Instead, more time is spent reading about and discussing qualitative research--merely existing in the world of qualitative research. In other words, educators still often dictate what curricular material is presented to students rather than working with students to engage with curriculum (Freire, 1993).

One research methodology that lends itself to breaking this status quo of traditional qualitative research programs is action research. A social movement that is fundamentally about emergent meanings of both action and research, as well as the relationship between them (Noffke, 1997), action research positions knowledge as connected to practice (Noffke, 2009). Its aim is individual and social transformation (Carr & Kemmis, 1986; McTaggart, 1994) by improving practice, understanding of practice, and the conditions of practice (Carr & Kemmis, 1986; Kemmis, 2009). For graduate students, transitioning from learners of the discipline to practicing qualitative researchers, this means more than simply improving the rationality and justice of their own practice; it also involves the transformation of their own patterns of saying, doing, relating, and participation in decision making and taking action (Carr & Kemmis, 1986; Kemmis, 2009). The result is personal as well as professional development which is, in effect, multidimensional transformation. For teacher researchers and educators, this transformation entails continued personal and professional development as they commit to facilitating such multidimensional transformation in graduate students.

In this study, we positioned action research as a driving mechanism for both informing and enhancing our development as emerging qualitative researchers and practicing teacher educators. We utilized action research as a plausible and productive methodology to investigate this phenomenon. Specifically, the current action research study was both undertaken and written by two graduate students of qualitative research and one teacher educator from a large, research-intensive university.

Underpinning our action research was the aim to transform our practice and development as qualitative researchers. Here, we describe the steps we took and the lessons we learned using action research, ultimately uncovering its role as a humanizing agent. In other words, we purposefully acted and critically reflected on what it means to become a qualitative researcher. As a result, we contend that action research serves as a key mechanism for not only learning to become a qualitative researcher but more importantly, to become more fully human.

In the following section, we provide a brief synthesis of literature in two signature areas: (1) humanization and (2) action research. We feel it is important to first define and describe these constructs and then operationalize them for the purpose of our study. By doing so, we start to demonstrate how these constructs can interact to aid in the process of humanization, a novel discovery uncovered through the process of our study. …

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