Chapter Summary

Chapter 1 provides an introduction to doing action research in your own organization. As you are poised to embark on this venture, we pose the following questions for your consideration. Out of what experience of your organization are you wishing to change something? What is or has been going on that puzzles you or what anomalies do you experience and that you wish to address? What patterns of deliberate action may support this inquiry and provide the opportunity for insights? With whom will you work so that this initiative will be good for you, be worthwhile for your organization and be useful for others?  Exercise 1.1 is a more elaborate version of these questions.

Action research involves 4 elements:

  1. Knowing the context of the organization and how the issues to be explored fit into what the organization needs and what the theoretical and research literature says.
  2. Building collaborative relationships with those who experience the issue most directly and engaging them in the project.
  3. Engaging in cycles of taking action and reflecting in and on that action
  4. Making a sustainable contribution to both the organization and to theory.

When we engage in action research there are three engagements. The first and most pressing one is the engagement with others in shared action and inquiry on the project. The second one is our own personal learning where we learn about ourselves, how we think, what we value and what skills we have. Thirdly, as it is action research we aim to contribute to knowledge beyond the immediate circumstances of the project, knowledge that is actionable knowledge for practitioners and robust theory for scholars. This is third person practice and is typically answering the question, what should anyone who has not been directly involved be interested? All action research projects involve these three engagements to a greater or lesser extent. Some projects may have a lesser first person focus than others; others may have more.

What is central to action research is that engagement in the cycles of action and reflection go beyond only solving the problem or implementing the change. Contributing to knowledge and learning involves a deeper reflection on what is being learned through the process of action and reflection. This may be done by inquiring into engagement in how the cycles are enacted and what is emerging from them.