The uses of writing in action research

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Collaboration is one of the most important aspects of Action Research as a genre, because the nature of the research method necessitates your working closely with other people. As in other areas of life, there will be people involved with you and whom you come to meet, who do not share your values. However, what unites action researchers is their willingness to discuss differences, to explore them in order to come to a greater understanding of their and others’ realities. In fact I would go as far as to say that this willingness is a prerequisite.
When I was facilitating at the Avon initiative in 1990, many people expressed concern that Action Research seemed a rather solitary activity. (This might, of course, be a comment on how well I had put across certain concepts, and I think they may have been misinterpreting the meaning of the term ‘Action Research’. See section at the beginning on this issue.) In fact, as I pointed out, teaching itself could be seen as solitary in an environment in which each individual goes into her/his own classroom, closes the door, creates the world, and perhaps never sees what is happening in other classrooms, and God forbid! would never expect any other colleague to take an interest. Action Research requires that door to be left open so that trusted colleagues from the outside world can enter and help to create an even richer environment for the pupils. Action Research is not just about individual researchers improving their practice; on another level it is about creating whole environments in which professionals are less skeptical about collaboration, are more receptive to team efforts, and are prepared to acknowledge failure and success openly. At the moment schools do not often seem able to provide that sense of security for their staff and this becomes a vicious circle of suspicion and stalemate. Much of this is due to a mentality discussed in the Introduction to this Guide, that holds that outsiders are the experts. Practitioners who work in their classrooms are somehow, according to this dubious reasoning, less able to create meaning for themselves, and that any significant reality has to be bought at an INSET price. This is not to say that outsiders can contribute nothing to the researcher’s understanding. Indeed, such viewpoints can be most valuable in enabling the researcher to see the situation with new eyes.

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