Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Getting the Word Out, posted by Mary Brydon-Miller

Writing in the conclusion to the Special Issue on Ethics and Action Research, Davydd Greenwood, Olav Eikeland and I suggested that we “develop strategies for making the results of research of direct benefit to community” and “develop innovative strategies for disseminating the results of our work”.  But the hiring committees and reappointment, promotion, and tenure policies of many universities fail to recognize such work as a legitimate form of scholarship, and may even actively discourage faculty from including such contributions on their c.v.s .   Those of us who have achieved senior faculty status should work to implement another one of the recommendations Davydd, Olav, and I made to “realign reappointment, tenure, and promotion policies to reflect both the unique demands of action research and the importance of community engagement.”  We need to make it clear to our institutions that such work is a legitimate—and much needed—form of scholarship. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Action Research and Technology in Classroom-Juanjuan Zhao

In a world of globalization and exchange of information at a fast pace, it seems impossible to live without modern technology. My question is, how many of us are using technology in classroom to conduct action research projects that engage students?

In a course I am currently taking, one of my group partners, a secondary teacher, is sharing pictures of Vietnam war through voicethread ( are American and Vietnamese soldiers and Vietnamese people in those pictures. The teacher asks her students to narrate a story by pretending to be a character from those pictures. I agree that this is a brilliant idea to know a historical event by bringing characters in history to life and getting students engaged. However, my first thought is what if there are biases and stereotypes? There might be students who chose to be Vietnam soldiers, but still they are not from Vietnam and it is highly possible that they judge the history based on their life and imposed American values. Is there a way to bring voices from Vietnam?

I even began to imagine a solution – that if there is collaboration between schools in America and in Vietnam on this Vietnam War project, students from both sides will be able to express their opinions when acting as certain characters in the pictures. By doing so, we now have voices from Vietnam in which the event actually occurred.

This might sound like a fantasy because history, even as a fact, allows different interpretations and perspectives. However, my point is, since technology is right at hand, why not we make the best use of it? A principal in an elementary school in China asked me the other day if I have an idea to let her students know more about elementary students in America. She was considering creating a program that can let her students visit America every year. I was shocked by her thought because I do not know how to take care of children around 8-13 years old who can only say ‘Hello' and 'How are you?' So maybe the Internet and technology are the best way for a start.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Connecting People's Health to the Planet - Alan Wight

This weekend I read an article in the New York Times that talked about a food revolution for low-income people.  Dennis Derryck is the owner of a 92 acre farm in Schoharie County, NY.  He has created a unique community supported agricultural program (CSA) to help provide residents in the Bronx with healthy food.  As some of you may know there is a relationship between poverty, diet, individual / community health, and our environment.  For a variety of reasons, people from all socio-economic backgrounds do not always eat healthy food.  Money, time, knowledge about food and diet, access to unprocessed foods, and personal preference (i.e. culture) can all contribute to unhealthy bodies.  These bodies may then require more “modernized medical treatment” for the resulting diabetes, cancers, kidney failures, obesity, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, and other diet / environmentally induced problems.  Given the state of our medicalized – insurance – doctor – patient – pill - pharmaceutical - hospital - for profit health care system, we all end up paying more money.  Many times the food (if it can be called food at all) that is consumed is also produced, grown, and cultivated in an extremely unsustainable or environmentally damaging way.  Too many chemicals in the forms of growth hormones, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are used in the production process and ultimately end up in our bodies or our rives, lakes, and ocean—only to eventually become part of our biosphere.  This is the link between our personal health and the collective health of our planet.  There are plenty of people like Dennis Derryck already working on community based solutions, primarily dealing with reconnecting people to the soil and their source of their food.  This is a rich area for action research practitioners  who want to work with community members in tackling these health and environmental issues.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Participating with the Universe - Valerie Louis

For my dissertation work, I explored how people could participate with their organization's energy system to create change.  Quantum physics has postulated that our world is a vast sea of energy that surrounds us.  Some have asserted that this energy holds information that can be accessed to help inform our lives.  I started with quantum physics and my understanding of the human energy field to explore participating with an organization's energy.  When I first began this exploration, I felt very alone in the literature.  I saw myself as pushing the boundary of participation and though others had done the same - my immediate academic environment was somewhat skeptical of this worldview.  You can imagine my sense of community as I re-read the Introduction to the Handbook of action research, First ed. and saw front and center Reason and Bradbury's discussion of the participatory worldview.  What I discovered is that there is a discussion in AR using quantum physics to explore participating with the world.  McNiff (1999) embraces “new science descriptions of space that it is not a vast emptiness in which planets and stars exist in remote isolation from each other” (p. 47). Reason (2007) links people to the larger cosmos through a world that “senses us” at the same time that we are “sensing the world” (p. 37).  In addition, he embraces that our minds are connected to the “amorphous primordial data of the universe” and therefore humans “co-create with the universe” (Reason, 1993, p. 275).
            This week I received via email a talk that Peter Reason gave about participating with the world.  He strongly asserts that humans are not separate from the planet – that we are not “outsiders to the planet.”  Of course, if we in the West continue to think of the world as a machine, with all of its separate parts we will continue to be outsiders.  But how does it shift your thinking to think of yourself as an insider?  What if, by the nature of the energetic universe you are very much an insider, able to partner with your organization, the tree in your yard, and the cosmos?  How would this shift your definition of participation?  And therefore shift your actions?  What if you could dialogue with the “things” around you that you think are unable to participate? 
            Reading Peter Reason’s talk this week has helped me re-engage my dissertation work. It has affirmed for me that I am part of a continuing discussion – maybe one that is on the fringe of AR, but I seem to be in respectable company.  And as I read of Reason’s experiences with Medicine wheel and other spiritual teachings (a connection I share), I see the fringe as the ability to bring many worlds together to deepen the conversation and push the concept of participation further into the unknown and the disengaged.  I appreciate Peter Reason’s ability to speak openly about all of his experiences – his willingness to move a “private story” out into the public arena.  It is a bold step, much like Bache’s (2008) discussion of his participation with his institution that I admire and strive for. 

Bache, C. (2008). The living classroom: Teaching and collective consciousness. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

McNiff, J. (1999). Action research, a methodology of care. In U. M. Collins & J. McNiff (Eds.), Rethinking pastoral care (pp. 43-51). New York: Routledge.

Reason, P. (1993). Reflections on sacred experience and sacred science. Journal of Management Inquiry, 2(3), 273-283.
Reason, P. (2007). Education for ecology. Management Learning, 38(1), 27-44.

Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (2001). Introduction: Inquiry and participation in search of a world worthy of human aspiration. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.), Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice (First ed., pp. 1-14). Thousands, CA: Sage Publications.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Call for Papers for JERHRE sent in by Sarena Seifer-- Posted by Mary Brydon-Miller

We thought some of you might be interested in contributing to this special issue of the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics.  Our thanks to Sarena Seifer for sending along the CFP!

Call for Papers on Community-Based Participatory Research

The September and December 2010 issues of Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics (JERHRE) will be devoted to CBPR

The theme of these two issues will be:

New Models for Reducing Barriers between Researchers and Communities
(although not exclusively)

These special issues of JERHRE will explore new models for achieving success in community-based participatory research using new media, new kinds of collaborations, new social dynamics, new combinations of social research methods, new goals, or new ways of assessing risks to the community per se and its members. They may also examine ways to sustain programs when funding is interrupted. While researchers are primarily interested in research, communities are primarily interested in programs and services; accordingly, these special issues of JERHRE may also examine ways of creating and sustaining program services along with research.

Deadlines for submission of manuscripts: June 1 for possible September publication.

August 1 for possible December publication.

Papers accepted for publication, but not in time for inclusion in these special issues, will be published in the next issue of JERHRE.

Submit papers in Word format as email attachments to Editor-in-Chief Joan E. Sieber ( and to special guest editor Nancy Shore, Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of New England and Senior Consultant, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health ( Please see for manuscript preparation instructions and other details about JERHRE. Authors are invited to nominate one of their three peer reviewers. Send the name, email address and a sentence or two about the individual. It is suggested that you send 2 or more nominees in case your first choice is unable to accept the invitation to review. Authors wishing to see prior articles published in JERHRE are invited to view the March 2006 issue which is available at no cost in full text. Please go to: CBPR was also the theme of the June 2008 issue of JERHRE. To read the intro/editorial from that issue, please go to:

Authors wishing to submit abstracts or concept papers to Editor Joan Sieber are welcome to email ( queries or phone (510-538-5424).

The following factors will be considered in accepting manuscripts for publication:

· Scientific validity of the research design, if an empirical work; comprehensiveness if it is a review of the empirical literature.

• Thoroughness and depth of analysis.

• Discussion of conclusions and their implications for future research.

• Exploration of best practices derived from research findings.

• Conciseness; quality will be valued over quantity.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Revisiting "Strategies for addressing ethical concerns in action research" Mary Brydon-Miller

In 2006 Davydd Greenwood, Olav Eikeland, and I edited a special issue of ARJ focused on ethics and AR. We concluded that special issue with a short list of proposals for “encouraging greater attention to and depth of reflection on the quetsion of ethics and action resrac and the challenges this presents” (p. 130). Over the next few weeks, I want to revisit that list of recommendations and consider what progress has been made in implementing some of our suggestions, and how we might continue to move forward to address the concerns raised there. I’ll start this week by considering the final category, the challenges facing “journal editors, conference organizers, reviewers, and others with leadership roles both within the academy and in community organizations”. We suggested the following:

· “encourage authors and presenters to include an honest discussion of the ethical challenges they faced in the process of conducting their research;

· devote special attention to a consideration of ethical issues in research by hosting conferences, developing special issues of academic journals, and encouraging other forms of scholarship examining these concerns; and

· develop venues for more inclusive discussions of research so that pertinent information reaches a broader audience.”

I wish I could say that I thought we’d accomplished all of these goals. But while I see progress, I think there is much that remains to be done. While some authors do address these issues, we have yet to develop a policy that requires or even strongly encourages authors to incorporate a discussion of ethics into the manuscripts they submit to ARJ.

In terms of conferences, I do know that we will be offering a symposium at the upcoming World Congress of Action Research focused on ethics and AR, and considering specific ways in which we might incorporate a more critical examination of the ethical implications of our work across the action research process. And there are extremely useful discussions of research ethics generally in publications including the Handbook of Social Research Ethics, the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, and Teaching Ethics, all of which have or are considering incorporating discussions of action research.

And, of course, my hope is that this section of the ARJ Community blog, will serve as a sounding board for discussions of the ethical challenges of action research. We’d welcome hearing your comments, questions, strategies, and challenges.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First Person Action Research – the Doctoral Journey

by Vicki Stieha

Reading Valerie’s post this week brings me back to a project that she and I undertook with a group of other doctoral students began almost a year ago. (1) At that time, eight of us drafted a book chapter exploring AR from a student perspective. Our work surfaced many of the same tensions as Burgess (2006) discusses in her article, “Participatory action research: First-person perspectives of a graduate student.”

I’m including the opening paragraphs from our draft, which we hope will someday be published in its entirety. It feels appropriate share this work as several of us have now completed our doctoral journeys and the remaining few are nearing their final stretches.

“Naked on the Page: Stripped Down Encounters with Action Research.”

When we began the work for this chapter we, perhaps naively, thought it would require us to gather a few times over the summer and then we would work independently on our own sections. The question that we initially asked was “What does it mean to conduct AR for your doctoral dissertation?” We hoped to capture our earliest reactions to action research and the ways that each of us have come to think of and through this paradigm. In the midst of writing about action research, we began to see our work as action research. As is the case for many action research projects, ours did not follow our early conceptions of how the work would come together; rather, we found ourselves in a recursive cycle of talking, writing, analyzing, and reflecting as we moved more and more deeply into the many questions and concerns that surround our work as action researchers.

Why have we named this chapter as we did? Perhaps it is because we are aware that our action research dissertations are “the new kid on the block” (Herr & Anderson, 2005) paradigmatically. Or it might be that we chose paths as action researchers that do not allow us to hide behind a “white coat” – to assume a stance of dispassionate observer. In another sense, as action researchers we are emboldened to admit that we are naked; we speak as the fabled wise-child who saw the emperor's non-clothes and said as much. We may feel awkward moments in our nakedness as we feel with our participants and reveal ourselves, but we never forget that it is our choice to be naked - to reveal our positionalities, to form relationships with our participants, to care deeply about our inquiry, and to want fervently to bring about change.

Next time, I’ll add a bit more from our chapter. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from other graduate students about your own experiences of aligning with “the new kid,” as Herr and Anderson (2005) say.

1 The authors of the book chapter, “Naked on the Page: Stripped Down Encounters with Action Research,” are Vicki Stieha, Valerie Louis, Sarah Hellman, Cathy Ramstetter, Sarah Lanman, Angie Woods, James Stallworth, and Billy Hensley.

2 Herr, K., & Anderson, G. L. (2005). The action research dissertation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Who Are We Working For? - Alan Wight

Like Valerie Louis, I find myself in a reflective state - not because of graduating, but because today marks the beginning of another round of professional education as I begin course work for a Ph. D. Also like Deb Dole, I have recently been questioning the power of community participation to lead to social action and equitable social change for the people1. Finally, like Mary Brydon-Miller, I am excited after reading Shaunna Scott’s recent ARJ article, “Discovering What the People Knew: The 1979 Appalachian Land Ownership Study” where she examines the legacy of the study, both for practitioners of participatory action research as well as for the people of the region.

Given the fact that I was born in Northern Appalachia, did my undergraduate work in the region (at Ohio University), have an inclination for environmental social movements, and truly desire to see change in the power structure; Scott’s article has personal implications as she illustrates the successes and challenges of PAR. My entire life I have been told we live in a democracy, where other than the presidential race our votes directly elect local and state representatives. These officials are charged with working for the people in their regions to help better their lives. Looking back more than 30 years Scott’s analysis of the Appalachian Study reminds us that even when the people band together with help from experts2, it is still an uphill battle against powerful corporate3 and government interests, especially when examining the relationship between land ownership and the socio-economic-environmental conditions afflicting the people (p. 193).
I agree 100% with Scott, when she cautions against the co-option of PAR/AR by corporations, agencies, and firms, as they become more effective at “targeting, defining, and channeling the direction of empowerment efforts” (p. 199). However, ultimately all parties need to cooperate, compromise, and collaborate in a constructive manor.

1. In talking about “the people,” I am referring to the massive division of wealth in the United States where the top 1% of our population owns 33.4% of the wealth, the next 4% own 24.1%, 5% own 12.5, 40 % own 27.9% and the bottom 50% own 2.5%. Another way to look to look at it, is that the top 10% of the population owns 69.5% of the wealth and other 90% of the population own 31.5%.
Source: Kennickell, Arthur B. 2006. Currents and Undercurrents: Changes in the Distribution of Wealth 1989 – 2004. FEDS Working Paper No. 2006 – 13.
2. Those folks with fancy titles, degrees, certificates, and letters after their names indicating official institutionalized training.
3. In mentioning corporations, I acknowledge that these are simply organizations made up of people, and to some extend include “the people.”

Friday, June 18, 2010

Reflection - Valerie Louis

In my post last week I wrote about graduation.  And now I find myself in a place of not-knowing.  I have no idea what is next.  Some days I stress and other days I go with the flow.  Today I looked at this not-knowing time as the time in action research that is exciting, engaging, and yes...unnerving.  In action research, not knowing often means I am on the right track.  The messiness and the chaos means I am in partnership - letting the process unfold - usually into something far better than I could imagine (Brydon-Miller, Greenwood & Maguire, 2003).  So I have been taking this in-between time as a time to reflect and clarify goals for myself.  So for now, I guess my life is my action research project.  Reason spoke of AR as a spiritual practice - something I deeply resonate with.  In this time of reflection, I hope to gain insight into what is important to me as a researcher, educator, student, and citizen.  I have plans of making lists - dreams for the immediate future and for the long term.  I have recognized that I want to travel back to my roots of feminist theory and methodology and explore further the connections to AR.  I want to develop my use of AR in the classroom.  I also want to explore in more detail what it means for me to be an interdisciplinary researcher and thinker in a job market that seems so discipline specific.

I see this time of reflection also filled with much action - including reading and writing. One of the lists I plan to make is a reading list.  I would love to hear from you the readings (from all disciplines, fiction, non-fiction, poetry) that influenced your understanding and journey with action research.  I would also be interested in hearing how AR guides your life - in the community, the classroom, and at home.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Alphabet Soup, Community Health and Capacity Building – Deb Dole

AR, PAR, PR, CBPR, CBR - The letters and words we use to describe the process and practice of participation and action sometimes appear as a secret language code created by and for the select and privileged. The parrallel threads of action and participation cross at multiple points along the contimuum of engaged scholarship that implies both social action and participation. As a fledgling action researcher who identifies strongly with community-based participatory research, I find myself contemplating my own identity.  Can I lay claim to any one research family?  Along with family membership comes responsibility and accountability.

Stoecker (2009) discusses the historical division and divergent nature of action and participation. Differentiating community-based organizations from the term community. How is community participation defined in terms of setting the agenda, identifying the issues, strenghts and potential strategies? What does the “action” consist of?  Does one begin the process of engaging participation of a community through a community-based organization who may or may not represent community member interests.

What is the end game? Is it through participation that social action is possible? How does capacity impact the ability to participate in order to even envision social change? Nelson, Poland, Murray and Maticka-Tyndale (2004) propose a framework for capacity-building within community health graduate programs. In the context of developing a framework for educating future community health researchers, the approach supports the idea that those engaging in research for social change must first have their own capacity envisioned and developed. This process is accomplished through clear identification of values, assumptions, power, partnership, systems and action.  Build your own capacity first before you attempt to build others.  Seems like a pretty obvious concept.

The questions are many and the answers remain elusive.  I do believe standing at the intersection of participation and action requires one to have capacity.  The alphabet soup seems to matter less than the ability of the researcher to reflect on their own motives and expectations.  Only then can we truly facilitate capacity building in the community. 

Nelson, G., Poland, B., Muray, M. & Maticka-Tyndale, E. (2004). Building capacity in community health action research. Action Research, 2(4), 389-408.
Stoecker, R. (2009). Are we talking the walk of community-based research? Action Research, 7(4), 385-404.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In it for the Long Haul - Mary Brydon-Miller

This past week my son, Rhys, spent the evening at a Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) meeting discussing efforts to stop the development of a new coal ash dump in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. When I first learned of the Appalachian Land Ownership Study in the 1980’s I had no idea that I would one day move to Kentucky myself and that my son and I would become KFTC members. At the time, living in New England, the issues facing Appalachian communities seemed remote, but Billy Horton’s description of the project published in Voices of Change: Participatory Research in the United States and Canada brought home to me the struggles of activists across the region to uncover the inequities in tax policies that continued to impoverish the people and destroy the local environment. So I was excited to read Shaunna Scott’s recent ARJ article, “Discovering What the People Knew: The 1979 Appalachian Land Ownership Study” in which she examines the legacy of the Land Ownership Study, both for practitioners of participatory action research as well as for the people of the region. Scott’s article reminds me of the importance of taking the long-view when considering action research and of remaining mindful of the ethical implications our work can continue to have years later. Scott describes KFTC as “an organization which continues to develop grassroots leadership in Kentucky and provide a voice for citizens in the state legislature,” and describes other organizations in Virginia, West Virginia, and Alabama that also continue to support the work originated by the Land Ownership Study. Scott also notes the personal impact the project had on those involved, people like John Gaventa, and Susan Williams who continues her work as Education Director of the Highlander Education and Research Center . This potential for our work to continue to influence practice should inspire and energize us, but at the same time it should caution us to take the time, as Scott suggests, to consider how to support not just the research component of the project, but the action steps we will take as a result. And to critically examine the ethical implications of our work, now and in the future.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Action Research Train

This week I have asked a colleague to contribute to our discussion of action research and education. Adam Cooper is an action researcher and an educator working towards completion of his doctorate at the University of Cincinnati. He has an amazing ability to draw out what is really happening in situations, has tremendous expertise in his field, and is an exceptional teacher. I hope his post today will generate some movement or reflection-or both.

From Adam:
I'd like to answer Dusty’s call for some metaphorical analyses of our work in action research. And so, as an educator, it seems apropos to consider mass transit, and particularly, to think about the train.
From all over the world and all over our society, we come together in the public schools to depart on a journey together. The assorted mix of interests that drive our educational system are so varied, sometimes so disparate, that it’s easiest to become reclusive. We jump on the train car together and pack ourselves in, but we seldom interact with anyone but those who boarded with us. Schools resemble a packed elevator, too, where numerous people are confined in a small space, but they rarely even acknowledge each other’s presence. It’s unnatural and it limits our potential.
Action research opens up the confined space; it facilitates interaction; it pushes all parties to reach their natural potential simultaneously.
I came into the Action Research fold by way of Kumaravadivelu (2001), who recognizes that pedagogy ought to be particularized. Teachers who seek some formulaic method for delivering instruction will always be disappointed, because no methodology addresses the needs of all learners, in all places, from all backgrounds. Kumaravadivelu (2001), therefore, encourages a post-method pedagogy that allows teachers to individualize instruction through action research.
Ironically, as an English teacher, the students who confounded me the most were disengaged English Language Learners. The language and cultural barriers prevented me from teaching in ways that had worked for me with other disengaged students. All teachers, and indeed all leaders, will undoubtedly encounter a population that seems at times to be unreachable. Too often, this population is dismissed and efforts are refocused on those who respond more positively. This approach may be easiest, but, again, it’s an unnatural approach to education and change. We cannot sit together in the confined space of a classroom and refuse to communicate our particular interests with each other, even if we are used to communicating in different languages. Instead, we can embrace the fact that we are all travelling together on the same bound train; we can use our finite time together to create the space for collaborative cycles of reflection, planning, and action, so that we can help each other reach the station as a strong community and as strong individuals.
I continue to be amazed by the dynamic potential of action research. As a teacher educator, I work with other teachers to examine their own practice in the classroom. In order to acknowledge and implement a post-method pedagogy, I also work with student groups in Youth Participatory Action Research Circles. Oftentimes, these projects co-exist in the same classroom. There are parallel investigations occurring simultaneously; they inform each other; they achieve different ends; but they bring everyone to the same place in the end: to a space where learning is meaningful for everyone involved. Incidentally, there is potential for other action research circles to travel with us here, as we invite students to include home and peer communities into the schools and as teacher educators work to facilitate this work in the most profound ways possible.
As we engage in our own action research projects, consider how others in our AR community travel with us, inform our own work, and how we can help them reach our shared destination as strong individuals.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2001). Toward a postmethod pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, 35(4), 537-560.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Forms of Action - Alan Wight

“What makes our work fundamental to the revitalization of social research more generally lies in its orientation towards taking action, its reflexivity, the significance of its impacts and that it evolves from partnership and participation” (underline added for emphasis).
– Hillary Bradbury Huang, ARJ Blog

This past weekend I walked the well worn paths of Red River George in KY with a few close friends.  While hiking, I kept thinking about all the different kinds, types, and forms of action as they relate to the goals of AR.  Hiking, camping, running, swimming, biking and other physically intense actions were first on my mind, but soon other forms of action crept in: voting, protesting, rioting, picketing, striking, community organizing, boycotting goods and services, gardening, listening, speaking, writing, praying, meditating, and teaching. 

This flurry of thoughts concluded with the broad question: “What are the most important forms of action at our disposal for empowering a community?”  

Kimberly Kinsler  (2010) discusses Carr and Kemmis’s (1986) Becoming Critical  where the authors claim that AR has become “more often connected to issues of professional development, only loosely and infrequently articulated with social justice agendas let alone challenges to dominant research paradigms” (p. 323).  I am still new to AR, but I sincerely hope that this method and school of thought are not being co-opted to serve the powers that be.   I love that fact that AR is emancipatory and seeks to “connect the personal with political…” (Kinsler 2010, p. 175).  This is why I am here.

Despite all this talk about taking action, I believe the best approach to social change maybe no action at all, or more specifically non-violence.  Now that might sound like an oxymoron, but any social change needs to be peaceful and constructive for all parties involved, even the oppressors.  When thinking about AR and the environment, is it possible to be nonviolent toward our planet?  All most every economic activity requires environmental destruction for the creation of goods. We are fortunate that parts of earth regenerate after being used (flora and fauna).  Along these lines of nonviolence and nature I am reminded of Henry David Thoreau.  He found emancipation and freedom away from the city.  He found god in nature.  Maybe the best method of social change involves not participating in the power structures that be….of course this might also require the relearning of agriculture.  In that case gardening would be my favorite action for empowering the community.

1. Kinsler, Kimberly.  (2010)  The utility of educational action research for emancipatory change.  In Action Reserach, vol 8, no 2.  Available at 
2.  Carr and Kemmis (1986). Becoming critical: Education, knowledge and action research. Abingdone: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.
3. Community Garden picture retrieved from Knoxville Permaculture Guild (6.14.2010):

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Introducing ARJ Community blog: We come in partnership! - Hilary Bradbury Huang, Editor in Chief Action Research Journal (ARJ)

The editorial board of the SAGE Action Research Journal ( has teamed up with colleagues at the Action Research Center at the University of Cincinnati to develop the ARJ Community Blog. Our purpose is to both connect journal readers to the issues and from there to encourage new concerns and directions to emerge.
The ARJ community comprises the women and men all over the world who work as action research scholar practitioners (or who wish they did)! We are –more and less—loosely connected through the international, peer reviewed SAGE journal "Action Research.”
What makes our work fundamental to the revitalization of social research more generally lies in its orientation towards taking action, its reflexivity, the significance of its impacts and that it evolves from partnership and participation. 
By getting to know each other better, we hope to work together more effectively to develop and share the Action Research orientation to knowledge as it increasingly becomes a viable alternative to conventional social science.  As such we see our efforts as sharing about models for increasing the relevance of conventional social research to wider society. 
The blog may be reached at:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Graduation - Valerie Louis

Hi All...University of Cincinnati had its doctoral hooding ceremony today and a few of us that are part of the ARJ blog graduated (Deb, Vicki, Dusty, and Valerie).  It was  a wonderful occasion to celebrate Action  Researchers accomplishments.  It is possible to do an action research dissertation and graduate!  Though there are some challenges within the academic world - such as IRB (Brydon-Miller & Greenwood, 2006), rhetorical choices (Fisher & Phelps, 2006), and pushing research into "new" territory.  For many of us Mary Brydon-Miller has been one of the main champions of AR at the University of Cincinnati.  She helped create a support group for doctoral students, has connected many to the community, and has been an all-round cheerleader.  But AR isn't just about our leader - we have all become leaders!  I see my graduation as the beginning of new learning.  As I wrote a few weeks ago about the apprentice - I have begun to see the image as relevant to my beginning as a new PhD.  I see the freedom to learn about action research in new ways, beyond the confines of a degree - to learn as a budding colleague.  As AR students we have been encouraged to take ownership of our own learning and to share our knowledge and process with others.  President Williams spoke of being in service to our communities.  Action research embodies this principle. It felt good to listen to his address and feel that I have already been in service - instead of waiting to begin.  I owe much of this to action research.  So thank you action research community for continuing to be innovative, participatory, and reflective.  I look forward to learning, leading, and being in service!

Brydon-Miller, M., & Greenwood, D. (2006). A re-examination of the relationship between action research and human subjects review processes. Action Research, 4(1), 117-128.

Fisher, K., & Phelps, R. (2006). Recipe or performing art?: Challenging conventions for writing action research theses. Action Research, 4(2), 143-164

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ethics, Authenticity, and Teaching Action Research - Mary Brydon-Miller

In a meeting with a student today to discuss her comprehensive exam, I said that I had a new standard question I would ask every student to address.  That question is to describe your ethical stance and to discuss how your proposed research embodies that position.  But how do we help students to articulate their own values and to understand how those values might inform their practice?   This seems to me to provide an excellent opportunity for a first-person action research project, and this was in fact the focus of the first assignment the students in my own action research course worked on this year.  Ethics education often focuses on learning theory and, where it does engage ethical questions, these are often put to the students in the form of case studies.  While this can be an extremely useful mechanism for generating discussion and critical analysis, it often fails to engage students at a more personal emotional level—to challenge students to grapple with the ethical implications of their own decisions and their own actions.  To ask the difficult question—what do I believe and how does my research reflect those values? 
David Coghlan’s exploration of the relationship between first-person action research and the notion of authenticity provides a useful strategy for articulating and then acting upon our values.  In this article Coghlan discusses the key aspects of authenticity as outlined by Bernard Lonergan, i.e. that we should seek to be attentive, intelligent, responsible, and reasonable. (ARJ, 6 (3), 351-366). David’s description of his own response to a difficult moment during a consultation and how he draws upon these qualities reminds me of my admonition to students that action researchers must expect the unexpected, and must be prepared to act upon their own values in those moments.  David’s experience provides a wonderful exemplar of what it means to be true to our beliefs.  

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Where there is need, there is a room for action research-Juanjuan Zhao

          A group of Chinese students from Xi'an Jiaotong University visited UC a couple of months ago and got a chance to be introduced to action research by Dr. Mary Brydon-Miller. Their reaction was 'Oh, this is action research'. Apparently, it is a new term for them, but not a completely strange land they have never set a foot in.As Vicki Stieha said in her blog last week , many people begin conducting action research long before they know what action research is.

          At the beginning of my doctoral program in Educational Studies, I was very curious if action research is applicable in China and how could I conduct action research in foreign language teaching. I was worried that I could not conduct action research if I go back to China after graduation, thinking there might be challenges in a different context, especially when quantitative research is enjoying popularity at the moment. I even got a kind 'warning' from a Professor in our department who said seriously to me that I got to consider if I can be hired by any university if I bring action research method. Upon hearring that, I admit that I did panic a bit. Because there are the fundamental differences between the East and the West in ideology, belief, and logics, etc.

          Then I started to do a research on action research in China and there I found a center for educational action research in foreign langauge teaching in Ningxia Teachers University( by Professor Jean McNiff and Professor Jack Whitehead in U.K. This center was opened in December, 2003 and is the only center of its kind in the world. It is a collaboration between colleagues of the English Department in Guyuan and at the Hui Zhong (Moslem Middle School) in Haiyuan and it also represents international collaboration.Its ultimate purpose is to improve the learning experience of all children in China.

          So the point I am trying to make here is that action research is applicable as long as there is need for change and improvement. It is a method that is both strongly applicable and flexible.As teachers, we are constantly confronted with difficulties and challenges in our teaching. Sometimes we complain and feel troubled without trying to work out with our students or the other teachers-collaborative inquiry. When we really take time to reflect on teaching and to choose a problem which we then study by applying the Lewinian cycle of diagnosing/action planning/action taking/evaluating/specifying learning (Baskerville& Wood-Harper, 1996), we might be open with a new world.
          The other thing we should bear in mind is that there is no fixed model of action research. We should not think that the task of experienced action researchers is to teach others to do the exact action research they have been conducting, especially when a different context is involved. Instead, the task of experienced action researchers it to enable and facilitate people to develop their own models to bring together action and reflection, theory and practice'(Reason&Bradbury, 2001.p.1).That's why I like the idea of the center in foreign language teaching in China because their next short-term goal is to
evolve a new form of action research, which they call 'Collaborative Living Educational Theory Action Research with Chinese Characteristics'.


Baskerville, R., &Wood-Harper, T. (1996). A critical perspective on action research as a

          method for information systems research. Journal of Information Technology, 11,


Reason,P.&Bradbury,H.(2001). Introduction:Inquiry and Participation in serach of a

          world worthy of human aspiration. In P. Reason& H,Bradbury(Eds.), Handbook for

          action research: Participative Inquiry and Practice(pp.1-14). London:Sage.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blue-Green-Ball of Creation

One of my favorite characteristics of Action Researchers is that we consider different ways of knowing. As P. Reasons states so well, “research practitioners to take into account many different forms of knowing— knowledge of our purposes as well of our ideas, knowledge that is based in intuition as well as the senses, knowledge expressed in aesthetic form such as story, poetry and visual arts as well as propositional language, and practical knowledge expressed in skill and competence (2001)*.

It is with love for the spoken word and performance based poetry that I lauch into this entry on Action Research and the Environment.  Today, I will weave words and pay homage to those scholars and activist who have paved the way.  I dedicate this creation to them.

Blue-Green-Ball of Creation

Vandana Shiva explains, “The web of food, is the web of life.”  William J. Brown  paraphrases William S. Burroughs, “People don’t realize the planet is our life boat.”  Given the works of Rachel Carson, E.O. Wilson, Barry Commoner, and Jane Goodall why do we persist and push this Promethean promise of progress?  Stand on the shoulders of Buckminster Fuller and wrap your head around:
                                                        Our Spaceship Earth

This is a dream for the day we grasp the interconnectivity of the biosphere and realize that it is our ecosphere*

This is a shout-out to my culture: stop planet plundering for profit!

          This is a prayer for people subjected to our modernized poverty,
                      To the social majorities of India, China, and Africa…
          To the World Bank, WTO, and IMF,
                      To the Monsantos, Cargills, and Con-Agra’s,
          To the individuals of the corporations who “dump” grain and rice,
                      To the Dow Jones, S&P, and members of NYSE,
          To automobile users and deep-sea drillers,
                      To the believers in the green revolutions,
                                     And the bio-technology solutions...

      This is a plead to terminate the terminator seed,
           Stop the ready round-ups and petrochemical inputs,
                  Lets refrain from further proliferating pesticides in the chains of life,

Can we please cease this crazy toxification?
      Meditate for a moment on a systems paradigm revelation,

             We need a humble realization,
                     We are all here together on this blue-green-ball of creation.


1. Reason, P. (2001). Learning and Change through action research. In J. Henry (Ed.), Creative Management.  
    London: Sage.
2. bio (life) = eco (home)
3. As a member of our culture I am an automobile user, an eater of industrial foods, and a product of our promethean way of thinking.  I am not exempt from these words.  It is from this point that I seek alternatives.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

AR and Qualitative Research - The Welcoming of Photovoice

This week I had attended the 22nd Annual Ethnographic & Qualitative Research Conference, which is why my post is a few days late.  The conference has me reflecting on many areas of research and publication such as generalizabilty, limitations, and the intersection of theory and research. I definitely have my wheels turning about future research possibilities.  And while I enjoyed the conference, I could not help but think how different the conversation would be with more action researchers in attendance.  Though Greenwood and Levin (2007) state that AR is not qualitative research – it is clear that the influence is there for both areas. There were people at the conference who are doing AR and are not using that label.  Others had never heard of AR and it was moments of learning.  I presented a poster on photovoice and was happy with the energy and reception of the method.  It is a process that I have truly enjoyed.  Photovoice continually provides moments of learning and knowledge generation.  It is filled with magical moments of connection, transformation, and understanding.  As I wrote in my last post, I used photovoice in my class this quarter.  The students and I spent the last two weeks analyzing the photos…I am anxiously waiting to see who signed consent forms to allow their photos to be used in further analysis and dissemination – and to work with me in that process.  Through the analysis process in class it energized me even more about the process.  I hope to move into first person reflection with photovoice and to incorporate it into my diversity classes, similar to Chio and Fandt’s (2007) usage of it.  Do you have a success stories with photovoice?  Or challenges?  I would love to hear from you…please comment to share your stories…  

Thursday, June 3, 2010

AR and CBPR in Clinical Trials - Bernard Young

There has been a growing interest in coupling AR, CBPR and Clinical Trials. This desire has been a respond to the need to improve diversity in clinical trial participation and to addressing the ethical issues of appropriately informing and educating the public when soliciting participants. Clinical trials that incorporate AR and CBPR models reduce power inequity between research subjects and investigators in the formulation of research questions, data analysis, and information distribution. I suggest that this approach also improves the communicative possibilities by offering an opportunity for direct dialog between trial subjects and medical practitioners on a level that goes beyond the sometimes paternal relationship of practitioner-patient.

We find this approach being used in many different area of research involving clinical trials My first contract with this type of approach was working as a regional coordinator, working in the with HIV/AIDS service and Prevention Programs in Cincinnati, Ohio. Through the actions of the staff of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Infectious Disease Center’s AIDS Clinical Trials Unit (ACTU) and the establishment of Community Advisory Board (CAB), I was able to witness collaboration between receivers of services and providers which helped to educate both side through a partnership that looked at research questions and service protocols. This partnership greatly improved the relationship between the clinic and the community of affected and infected persons. The ACTU of the University of Cincinnati is currently directed by Dr. Judith Feinberg, Professor of Medicine, Additional information about the CAB and the ACTU can be found at

Please let us hear your experience in CBPR and AR in this area of research.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reciprocity, Relationship, and Covenantal Ethics - Mary Brydon-Miller

In their article, “Reciprocity:  An Ethic for Community-based Participatory Action Research”, authors Sarah Maiter, Laura Simich, Nora Jacobson, and Julie Wise define reciprocity as “an ongoing process of exchange with the aim of establishing and maintaining equality between parties” and explore how this notion might inform our understanding of the ethical implications of community-based participatory action research.

This concept of reciprocity relates closely to the idea of community covenantal ethics that I’ve been exploring in some of my own recent work.  I first came across the concept of covenantal ethics in the work of my friend Anne Inga Hilsen (include link to Arj, 4(1), 23-36) in which she cites the work of William May, a physician whose book, The Physician’s Covenant lays out some basic principles of covenantal ethics.  Anne Inga describes how this informs her work as an action researcher, “I suggest that AR can also be seen as a covenant between the researchers and the local participants.  Instead of doing good to serve my own needs or act as rational contractual action, I will argue that AR, from my position, can be seen as entering into a covenant with the local participants” (2006, 27-28). 

This covenant is founded in the notions of reciprocity and relationship.  In their article, Maiter and her colleagues provide a very clear and complete discussion of how they designed and carried out a community-based participatory action research project designed to examine the issue of mental health care among diverse communities in Ontario, Canada. At the same time, they also help to deepen our thinking of the ethical implications of our work as action researchers

Brydon-Miller, M. (2009).  Covenantal ethics and action research:  Exploring a common foundation for social research.  In D. Mertens & P. Ginsberg (Eds.), The Handbook of Social Research Ethics (pp. 243-258).  Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.

May, W. F. (2000).  The physician’s covenant:  Images of the healer in medical ethics (2nd ed.).  Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Highlighting the Place of Community in Classroom Action Research - Vicki Stieha

Last week Dusty was sharing her reflections on educators conducting action research and likened it to the “collective centering, pulling, and shaping of clay” and I love that image. It led me to think about the word “collective” in her phrase.

A friend of mine, an educational researcher, told me that she began conducting classroom action research long before she knew what action research was. In fact, many educators continually cycle through questions that are important to their practice, collect data (students’ reactions to material, their class work, etc), and analyze that data reflecting back on the practice and considering changes to their teaching. For many, it is part of their natural teaching process.

An online article about classroom action research (CAR) recently caught my eye. It is a brief and clear picture of the way one writer, Susan Carter, weaves classroom action research into her practice. And I am not saying that CAR cannot be woven seamlessly into a teacher’s practice, but today I am thinking deeply about the “collective” or the essential communal aspect of action research—even when it is conducted in the classroom. I love Carter’s passion for CAR, but I want her to talk more about the importance of sharing questions and reflections throughout this process with others.

In my own research, I have found that keeping our inquiry within our own practice is far less intimidating than sharing it outside of our classrooms. It is fascinating to me that, as much as we know that our students learn well through collaboration, constructing meaning with and from one another, we so often isolate ourselves and our own learning as adults. I would argue (as would Kegan and Lahey, 2001) that adults benefit as much or more from learning in community as children do. In fact, this is what Kern and Levin (2009) have found in North Carolina in their work with practicing teachers who were in the process of renewing their National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification. The authors found that the teachers in their Teacher Action Research Academy (TARA) Project supported one another in this online learning community as they moved through this demanding certification process, conducting classroom action research of their own. Their stories of interacting and sharing throughout their inquiry revealed that the community played a key role in supporting their learning.

Along with Miriam Raider-Roth, I am learning a great deal about the importance of community in adults’ learning in professional development in our own inquiry research. We are seeing how the process of asking questions about our practice, engaging in inquiry into those questions, and reflecting on the learning produced through that inquiry is enriched through a learning community. We are also learning a great deal about the necessary qualities of that learning community and the ways that the contexts for the learning play into the learning that happens. Our inquiry is ongoing, although we hope to have an article out soon to share with you.

In the meantime, I hope some of you will find this blog a friendly place to share your questions around inquiry into your teaching practice with us. Among other things, this blog can serve as a way that educators can share their thinking, action, and reflection with others to create a