Saturday, October 30, 2010

From the ARJ Editors' desk: “Network Research with Action Research

This saturday, I want to draw attention to Steve Waddell’s work. Steve, both an entrepreneur, PhD in sociology and principal of “Networking Action,” has been at the forefront of thinking/practicing through inter-networked communities of networks.  In this simultaneously simple yet complex networked organizational form, the real work happens at the front lines. Resources and strategic thinking, however, can be informed at the “hub” of the shared communities.  This is both efficient (always important, now more than ever) and it allows for the all important “weak ties” to grow. Weak tie theory, in a nutshell, suggests that people who have many “weak” connections outside their home base of "strong" ties or relationships can best allow for innovation and development into new areas because they can reach into resources – along the chain of weak ties - more quickly.   But read Steve directly! And because this week’s blog from Steve is called “Getting More through Network Research with Action Research” – how can I resist bringing it to the ARJ community.  Best wishes to Steve!

Hilary Bradbury-Huang, Ph.D.
ARJ Editor in Chief.
Portland, Ore

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cooper: Inviting students into the research circle in ESL classrooms - Adam Cooper, Guest Blogger

Adam Cooper recently presented at the MWERA conference in Columbus, Ohio and he had some interesting things to say regarding AR in the classroom. His call to invite students to participate as more active members of research circles, rather than "token members" challenges the comfort zone of those educators less experienced in classroom action research; but listening to his argument I can see only positive and dramatic changes in ESL classrooms possible. Adam has given me permission to post a short excerpt from his paper presentation which is published in the MWERA conference program. You can reach Adam at and if you have an idea for a posting or would like to write about your experiences using AR in classroom, email me at

Scholarly calls to invite action research (AR) into the language classroom abound (Burns, 1999; Crookes, 2003; Crookes, 1993; Kumaravadivelu, 2001), resulting in successful formulations of instruction for foreign language study (Crookes & Chandler, 2001), English as a Foreign Language in postsecondary programs (Thorne & Qiang, 1996;), and English as a Second Language in secondary settings. Indeed, collaborative inquiry has long been a means for refining practice according to traditions in Japanese Lesson Study (Fernandez, Cannon, & Chokshi, 2003). The dynamic ability for action research to affect positive changes in the classroom, however, is evident in the quick transition it has made from a primary focus on teacher practice to an added focus on increasing opportunities for disengaged students (Atweh, 2003; Bland & Atweh, 2007; Mitra, 2006; O’Brien & Moules, 2007), for student learning (Nunan, 2002), and for school reform (Fielding, 2001; Leitch, Gardner, Mitchell, Lundy, Odena, Galanouli, et al., 2007). With the proliferation of AR among teachers, administrators, and students, there are still little, if any, attempts to convene these efforts into parallel investigations that can inform and assist one another in their distinct objectives.

Although students-as-researchers efforts are designed to strengthen student voice in schools, learners are rarely given the opportunity to use these efforts in order to make important structural, procedural, or pedagogical decisions at the school. Admittedly, impressive efforts are made to train and support students in data collection, but too often, research design is left to the educators, as is the task of drawing conclusions and articulating implications. This token involvement jeopardizes the same student engagement educators wish to incite with this approach (Fielding 2004a, 2004b, 2007). When incorporated into a curriculum effectively, motivation among previously disengaged students can improve (Oldfather, 2002; Rogers, Morrell & Enyede, 2007), and instruction can change to better meet the needs of the students (SooHoo, 1993).

By incorporating a dual role for teachers’ action research circles and those for students in one given classroom, ESL programs can support the pedagogical needs of mainstream content teachers, as suggested by Pawan (2008). Additionally, all students, whether they are native speakers of English or second language learners, can then address Duff’s(2001) concerns regarding ELLs’ limited opportunities to communicate in classes dominated by native speakers who have long been enmeshed in American popular culture. Because this collaborative methodology honors the knowledge base of all participants, it could create the space that would allow these previously silenced students to participate more fully in learning activities, contribute more meaningfully to teachers’ pedagogical knowledge, and influence the communities that factor into their education.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Brief Pause to Consider Confucius posted by Mary Brydon-Miller

I want to pause in my examination of the structured ethical reflection to offer my sincere thanks to Juanjuan Zhao for giving me the opportunity to read and discuss the connections between Confucius and Action Research. Thanks, too, to John Elliot and Ching-tien Tsai for their insightful examination of this topic.

"Learning without thought is pointless.  Thought without learning is dangerous"  Confucius (The Analects of Confucius, Book 2, Passage 15).

"Master Zeng said, each day I examine myself on three maters.  In making plans for others, am I being loyal to them?  In my dealings with friends, am I being trustworty? Am I passing on to others what I have not carefully thought about myself?" (The Analects of Confucius, Book 1, Passage 4)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Critical Questions—Constructing Research Questions posted by Mary Brydon-Miller

After months of serving as a volunteer van driver for the local Independent Living Center, conducting interviews with individuals with disabilities, and organizing a community group interested in working together to increase architectural accessibility, we were ready to “go live” at a meeting called to construct a focus for our first advocacy project.  I came to that meeting with a terrific idea!  Wouldn’t it be great to have a Town Hall style meeting, inviting local and state politicians to meet with us to discuss the importance of increased accessibility?  WRONG!  The other members of the group made it quite clear that this wasn’t what they wanted to do.  They discussed their issues and concerns and decided that working to make the local shopping mall more accessible would be our focus.  I don’t know how obvious my disappointment was, but I do know that I had the good sense to shut my mouth and listen to my community partners. And they were absolutely right.  This was before national legislation mandating architectural access and in a part of the country where winters are harsh and make mobility difficult for an individual using a wheelchair.  Being able to visit and move around a large public space like a shopping mall allows an opportunity to get out and socialize during the long months when snow and ice make it impossible for those using a wheelchair to navigate on the sidewalks and streets of the community.   

We learned about the state architectural barriers code, filed complaints, attended hearings in Boston and after many months (actually a few years!), we won a State Supreme Court case forcing the owners of the local shopping mall to install a wheelchair accessible elevator.  This lesson in listening to people to who know more than I do has stayed with me over the past twenty five years as an action researcher. 

So here are some questions to ask yourself as an action researcher as you begin to work with your community partners to construct a meaningful research question:

Beneficence:  What direct benefits will studying this question have for the members of your group?
Justice:  Will studying this question contribute to positive social change and greater social justice?
Respect:  How does the process of constructing your research question demonstrate your respect for your community partners and their knowledge?
Transparency:   Is the process of creating your research question open and clear to all participants?
Democratic Practice:  How have you insured that all of your community partners have an opportunity to contribute to the process of identifying and deciding upon a meaningful research question?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hebron Market Place: Part 2 - Dr. Stephen Kroeger

Today's posting is the second writing in a series by action researcher, Dr. Stephen Kroeger, introducing some of his experiences from a recent trip to Palestine to begin action research with school teachers there. Steve's first post (August 17, 2010)  began with a scene at the turnstile gates of the Hebron Market. Here in this market area the Isaraeli's and Palestinians may live closely together, but the divide continues to be great as Steve describes with his art and words.

The words and art below are Steve's and both are used with permission. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to leave them! If you have an idea for or would like to write a response to any of educational action research topics you read here, please email me at:  Peace, Dusty

© 2010, Original art work by Stephen D. Kroeger, used with permission

This is a second installment about my recent visit to the West Bank (July 2010). On one end of the Hebron market place were the turn stile gates (see August 17th Blog). At the other end of the market was this scene. A gentleman, a Muslim, approached a group of us and explained that this was once one of the largest markets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It used to be a big and open area just behind the wall. “There were a lot of shops. They shut it down. They built a settlement, and if you see these two floors you can tell the old building from the new building. They built another floor on top which is not their property. If you stretch a little bit down here I am going to show you the door or the exit, a small channel, it used to take us to the other market. It used to be so active down here, one of the best markets in the whole West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
The man moves a bit further down and invited us to come with him to see a sealed up passage way. Our guide asked if we needed to depart. She explained to the man that she had been here before. The man replies, “I know love, I just want to show him and to show you. Even Europeans on Saturday, they come here and the do a big demonstration, asking them (the settlers) to leave the area. They (the settlers) thrown eggs on my stuff. I’m gonna’ show you a lot of shells, as a witness; I’m not going to sell them to friends like you, people who are on our side, who are supporting us. It just a little bit.”
 “My shop is in the corner here. You won’t walk more than 20 meters.” As we walk further into the market we pass under the fencing that is acting as a net. A member of our group asked, “Is that garbage?” In the nets above us, were piles of rotting garbage that had been thrown out of the settlers windows above.
“Yes, but let me show you this small channel.” The man pointed to a concrete sealed doorway. “They blocked it with concrete. You can tell. It used to take us to the other market.” Then pointing as if we could see through the concrete with our imaginations he continued, “And on our right hand side, when I used to be a little kid, I used to go up to these two floors on the stairs just behind the shops. If you step here,” the man moves a few steps further into the market, “The Israeli army is protecting them (the settlers) in the tower day and night, 24 hours.” Walking a few more steps further he says, “If you stand here, you can see another tower on the other side. And here are the eggs as a witness.”
Turning to look at our guide he says, “Honestly, I swear on my life, I am telling you the truth. The other day, during a demonstration of the Europeans, they (the settlers) were throwing eggs on my stuff.” Reaching up he pulled his textile back to show us the egg stains on his materials. “I am not selling the stuff, but keeping them to show them to the people who care about us. The way they treat us, they treat us like a bunch of animals, not like human beings at all, not a kind of respect. They are trying hard, in a way, to kick us outside here. We are determined to stay. We are not going to give up as long as we live because this is our homeland.”

What was this gentleman trying to help us understand? The Palestinian economy is being strangled by the heavy restrictions placed on the markets and people’s physical movement. All movement is under surveillance. Movement is controlled through multiple check points. We were unable to see what was happening. What we saw had to be interpreted and explained. Violence is woven into the fabric of the culture and life of the people – violence is rooted in the claims on the land.

What do I want you to know from this experience? Something profoundly unjust is occurring. These occurrences are partially funded by our tax dollars. Simply learning more about this situation is an act of resistance. We are linked to these experiences.