The white mice in action research

24 11 2008

As I chat over this project with various friends and colleagues I frequently have to explain them what Action Research actually is.

As part of our course we developed a wiki explaining this and I make no apologies having borrowed significantly from that source.

Action research describes a method of social research upon a specific issue of practice or behaviour from an active, subjective and descriptive perspective (Dick, 1999). This is in stark contrast to the paradigm of logical positivism (what i used to think of as my scientific background) thus rather than being seen as a test or experiment in empirical research with quantifiable and finite results, action research outlines by subjective involvement an improved understanding of both self and the issue in a qualitative and descriptive manner.

Make any sense to you? didn’t to me either until i stumbled upon this analogy I developed from the book “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy” (Adams 1979)

Rather than the experimenter looking down on the maze and experimenting on the white mice within it (logical positivism) we should understand that the action researcher is one of the white mice, working over time with his colleague mice to better understand how they might work together within the maze and the humans experimenting upon them.

action researcher

action researcher

I’d strongly recommend you read The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but if not, and you have the time, go here, use your browser “find” and go to the section that starts, “Slartibartfast coughed politely.“

So does that ring true as an effective analogy or do i need to try again?

This week, I shall mostly be being a white mouse.

Adams, Douglas (1979) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Dick, Bob (1999) What is action research?

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