Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Older women and chronic illness: Transitioning and learning to live with diabetes

     The number of people with chronic conditions continues to grow; yet research often focuses on the medical aspects of care rather than the experiences of individuals living with a chronic illness. My article "Older women and chronic illness: Transitioning and learning to live with diabetes" contributes to a more profound understanding of the transition period for people with chronic illnesses. This is important for many reasons. It can, of course, help people and families to better cope with the transition period, but it might also help care providers to better understand and improve vital aspects of care for people with chronic conditions.

     Storytelling allowed us to invite participants and their families to talk about their experiences. We asked each woman to tell us about her diabetes diagnosis story.  In listening to their stories we were able to follow the participants’ daily lives and to understand the major changes their chronic illnesses made to their lives.
     In this study, we observed transition or ‘movement’ over the twelve months after each woman’s diagnosis. We found an interesting pattern regarding the behaviours of the newly diagnosed women over the course of the study. When participants were first diagnosed with diabetes she was ‘warned’ about complications should she not adhere to a new lifestyle, but there were no immediate physical ramifications. Participants’ first efforts after diagnosis was to regain some control by gathering as much information as possible. Lifestyle changes were dependent on individual readiness and there was variation between participants.  We found that transitional processes require time so that people could gradually disengage from old habits and behaviours.

     We are looking forward to your thoughts on this research. If you have experienced a chronic illness, how does your experience compare to the experiences of the women described in this study?

L to R: Tina Koch, Fatemah Adili, and Isabel Higgins

Free access to this new article in Action Research Journal is available free for 30 days here. We'd love to engage in conversation with you about your response to this article.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Action Research as Imaginal Process

Perhaps due to the nature of our personal orientations to the natural world, our experiences -- as educators, researchers, and passionate souls -- have led us to consider action research as a chrysalis for human transformation. 

We wonder how many others have actually observed and reflected upon the powerful transformations that occur in nature, where the very form of a being alters throughout the organism’s development. While metamorphosis is a powerful metaphor, how do humans – without the same evolutionary messages as insects – accomplish profound change within personal and larger social systems? For the butterfly, the time in the chrysalis is one with very little observable movement, yet within it dissolution, differentiation, and growth are occurring. In fact, the change is already being signaled within the caterpillar even before the move to chrysalis through the impact of what are called imaginal cells. 

In investigating the experiences of formal and informal educators engaged in action research projects, as part of a Masters degree in Ecological Teaching and Learning, we observed that what seemed like previously intransigent issues for these educators often did significantly shift. We also noted that as one engages with the action research process, there can be a time of suspension and disorientation as former ways of seeing and being are challenged and changed. In our research, we name this the Mush Stage, and it seems to be a necessary part of transformation for humans as well as butterflies.

We’re not sure how the caterpillar turned butterfly feels about this experience -- where its previous form totally dissolves. Does it know loss or fear or confusion? We do know that we hear about these feelings from educators and have been carefully observing and analyzing the role this Mush Stage plays within the transformative process that so often results in a newly felt sense of empowerment.

How can action research provide a framework for human metamorphosis? What sort of synergistic relationship exists between action research, ecological education, and transformative learning?

We invite you to join us in our exploration of these questions in our article entitled, Ecological education and action research: A transformative blend for formal and non formal educators.

Nicky Duenkel and Judy Pratt

Free access to Nicky and Judy's new article in Action Research Journal is available free for 30 days here. We'd love to engage in conversation with you about your response to this article.

Related links:  

One take on the metaphor of imaginal cells as related to humans.

Original image of lifecycle of a butterfly can be found here and the original image of chrysalis cut open can be found here.