Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Challenges of Participation in Cross-Cultural Action Research/Desafíos De la Participación En la Investigación-Acción Transcultural

Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Challenges of Participation in Cross-Cultural Action Research/Desafíos De la Participación En la Investigación-Acción Transcultural

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

As internationalisation becomes increasingly characteristic of the work in educational institutions, we increasingly face situations in which collaboration is conducted across cultural and geographical boundaries. It is also increasingly common to apply action research approaches in these contexts, which brings further challenges to such international collaborations. Crosscultural communication and collaboration always have their challenges, which have been widely examined and reported: see further (Croucher, Sommier, & Rahmani, 2015; Hum & Tomalin, 2013). With increasing sociocultural, historical, and economic distance between participants, these challenges become even more complicated. Collaborations across countries in the global South and in the global North may face unexpected challenges, as participants with drastically differing cultural and social backgrounds and traditions come together.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the challenges of conducting Participatory Action Research (PAR) through the empirical example of a research and development project, where participants from a country in Northern Europe and from a Sub Saharan country in Africa joined to examine and develop their own teaching practices in the framework of PAR.

The attempt is to acknowledge the importance of conflicts and differing views within projects, and try to find ways of dealing with these issues. The article is a contribution to the ethical and methodological discussion within participatory action research, highlighting the controversies of collaboration, and also commenting on the North-South imbalance in ICT for development projects, and suggesting methods for collaboration in cross-cultural contexts where action research approach might contribute to an increased balance.

2. North - South context

The project that serves as our empirical case started from a desire to investigate and develop shared platforms for in-service training for teachers, where local challenges and problems were mirrored, challenged, and solved, through international collaboration and communication. The research approach applied was participatory action research, as the idea of equity played a central role in the project ethos. It was also important to initiate development activities that would support teachers in identifying issues in their own daily teaching practices, and in developing tools for handling these issues. The project would aim to apply action research as a way of continuous competence development embedded in the everyday practices of schools.

Six educational institutions, three in a Sub Saharan country in Africa and three in a Northern European country,1 initiated a collaboration with the aim of facilitating professional development of teachers in compulsory education. Two of the institutions provided professional development courses for teachers, and the other four were engaged in primary and secondary education.

The overall aim of the project was to facilitate teachers' professional development by supporting and stimulating development of solutions to local educational challenges, through the use of digital technology and a collaborative action research approach. Specifically, the following project goals were formulated:

- to develop teaching methods adapted to local conditions and needs, applying multimodal and multidisciplinary approaches,

- to develop teaching practices by exploring new working methods i.e. participatory action research and peer mentoring,

- to empower participating teachers in their professional development.

During the initial year, the ten participating teachers were introduced to the central ideas of action research and multimodality in a series of both separate and joint workshops.

Participants planned and carried out a first action research cycle (Lewin, 1947; Tripp, 2005) where they examined new ways of teaching and learning in their classrooms. …

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