Action Research

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Action Research][How would you define action research?][How would you explain it to your students?]

    • 00:17

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE: So I would define action researchin quite simple terms, really.And I've defined this in publications elsewhere.[Dr. Eileen Piggot-Irvine, Professor of Leadership]But my simplicity is really aroundjust saying it is research-- and hopefully quite evidence-basedand rigorous research-- plus thereis an action element to it.

    • 00:38

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: So there's always an improvement orientation.Unlike in my biological science background,research finished when you collected the data.With action research, it's got a continuationto some improvement at the end of that data collection.So that's the simplest definition.It's action plus research.

    • 01:02

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: And there are many, many different ways that peopledefine this and describe it.But I think you could get into a lot of nuancewith the definitions.But I'm just simply saying that's what it is.It's also called inquiry approach or inquirylearning by some people.But essentially they are action research approaches.[Why is learning about research methods important?

    • 01:23

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: Why is it interesting?]Why do I think it's interesting to learn about research--research generally, never mind about action research?So for me, research provides evidence.Research provides a substrate, if you like,for what it is that I'm wanting to claim about something.

    • 01:45

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: So that's, again, another simple sortof way of explaining why I think research is important.But action research I'm passionate about.Total difference-- not just research,but I'm passionate about action research becauseof that improvement orientation that I've just talked about.It is used in just about every field, every context

    • 02:07

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: that I can think of globally, and alwayswith the intent of wanting to make things better for people.So anything that does that and leads from evidenceto some form of improvement is alwaysgoing to be something that's important.[How would you describe the value of learning about actionresearch to a student or early career researcher?]

    • 02:28

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: How would I describe the value of action research or learningabout it?So I think I could probably simplify this as wellby saying there are some distinctive features of actionresearch that make it valuable, and personally valuable to me.So the first feature-- or elementor whatever you want to call it--is that there is a stakeholder involvement intent.

    • 02:53

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: So if, for example, you're a student--as people are that are watching this video-- if you had oneof your faculty that was conducting action research,they would involve you as a primary principal,very important stakeholder in the process.So not looking in on what's going on with you

    • 03:17

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: as an outsider, but this is an insider research approachwhere the person that's doing researchis intimately involved and wanting stakeholders thatare impacted by the research to be involved in the researchas well.So that's one of the key things, oneof the key elements that I think makesit quite a distinctive type of research.

    • 03:43

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: One of the other things I think is really criticalis a collaborative intent.So most action research is-- not entirelyeverybody-- but most action researchers--and definitely me-- believe that thereneeds to be authentic collaboration around the waythat the research occurs.So, for example, with the student involvement that I've

    • 04:04

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: just talked about, the stakeholder involvement,the students are not there just as passive recipientsor tokenistic contributors to the research.In authentic collaboration, they are equally involved inwhat's happening.So they should be involved in critiquing what's

    • 04:25

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: happening, in offering feedback and reflective and reflexivecomment on what's happening with the research.So collaboration is very, very important in action research.[What kind of questions can action research help youanswer?]So what kind of questions, research questions,

    • 04:47

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: can people ask in action research?This is like, how long is a piece of string?Everything you could imagine, just about anything imaginablecan be asked.But generally speaking, that questionhas got something that is a change or an improvementorientation associated with it.

    • 05:07

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: So as a simple example of that-- and somethingthat is dear to my heart in terms of my own research--if I was wanting to help an organizationto improve the way that their performance reviewprocess, sometimes called appraisal,worked within an organization, then the question

    • 05:29

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: would look something like, how can we in this organizationimprove our performance review processso that both accountability and developmental needs are met?So got that improvement part of the initiative in there,but the "we" part is in there as well, that collaborative aspectof action research.

    • 05:51

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: So that's the sort of questions that you can ask.[What limitations do action researchers face?]So limitations of action research-- thisis particularly interesting to me at the moment.You'll see why because I'm going to talk about a projectI'm very involved in later on.But sometimes there have been descriptions of action research

    • 06:16

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: as muddled science or lacking rigorbecause it's a highly qualitative process for mostpeople.I think that part of that critiquehas originated from the fact that very little evaluation

    • 06:37

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: of action research, its impacts, outcomes, outputs, processelements, very little evaluation has beenconducted on action research.So what we've seen is a small level of interestat the moment, some of it mine, thatis pushing the boundaries to wanting to find out--

    • 06:58

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: so what are all of these things that action researchers claimthat come out of action research?What are they like?What is happening with the field?How do we know that it's making an improvement to communityor society or individuals' lives?And yeah, so I think once we havea little more data, a little bit more evidence around what those

    • 07:21

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: impacts, outputs, outcomes are and the waythat people conduct the process of action research--I think when we know a little bit more about that in depth,that we will have a lot more rigor associated with whatother people, particularly what other academics,

    • 07:43

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: think of action research as a field of research.So we kind of are on the brink of someof that material, some of that research happeningat the moment.[What are some common criticisms found in action research?]I think that creating rigor, more rigor than

    • 08:03

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: is sometimes acceptable within action research,meaning more deeply data-based or evidence-based conclusionsin action research.When we create more of that in the process,we are going have less of the kind of "muddled science"criticism that we get from people.

    • 08:25

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: Now there's a balance here-- and a very fine balance--because there are many action researchers thatwould completely disagree with going to a morerigorous approach but keeping it more open--much more open-ended and much more entirely qualitativerather than other approaches at all.But I would be suggesting that I think that we've got some way

    • 08:48

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: to go to create a little bit more rigor within actionresearch, the trustworthiness that Gubaand Lincoln and other authors talkabout is all part of the process for increasing someof the rigor around action research.I'm particularly attracted to some recent work that is even

    • 09:09

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: suggesting that we might include some quantitative dataanalysis in action research.So Ivankova's recent research, which is--and her most recent book came out it in 2015.She's probably going to come under some criticismfor suggesting that quantitative data could

    • 09:29

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: be used in action research.But there are plenty of people that would argue stronglythat you only have qualitative, so let'sopen the field up a little bit and havesome alternative perspectives that are considered as well.So yeah, I see that the criticisms canbe addressed somewhat by that.One of the other criticisms that might be addressed

    • 09:51

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: is because there is a first-person involvement--primary researcher involvement-- in the research process itselfand collecting data and working with people collaboratively.There is a lot of criticism that action researchcomes in the fore around the topic of bias.

    • 10:12

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: So if, for example, a faculty member-- if I goback to that example again-- a faculty memberis investigating how they're improved their teaching.And they're involving students and getting feedbackand in the research process itself.The first criticism that might belaid at the door of that researcheris-- or the faculty member-- is that they

    • 10:33

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: have power over the students.And so, therefore, they're in a privileged position.And in that privileged position, the studentsmay be afraid of responding to what it isthat the researcher is asking.By being transparent and open and asking for feedback

    • 10:55

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: and allowing students in that exampleto critique what it is the faculty member is doing,that reduces the bias.But there are other things that might happen as well,including somebody else apart from that faculty membercollecting the data from the students.So there are lots of ways of dealing with the bias.But that's one of the things that action researchers

    • 11:18

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: are criticized for and one of the limitations thatcan be overcome.That's not insurmountable.[How has the field of action research changed over time,and which developments do you consider most significant?]So the field of action research has changed somewhat,but not hugely over time.The forefather considered to be the father of action research

    • 11:41

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: was a guy called Kurt Lewin.And people all over the world pronounce his name differently,by the way.I've heard it "La-veen," "Loo-in," "La-vin."But in the 1940s, particularly, he did some of the earliestthinking about action research and working particularlywith socially deprived communities in the United

    • 12:05

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: States in terms of the way that you would conduct researchwith people for improvement within their own community.Probably the next step in terms of progressionin terms of my kind of thinking about the progressionwas with a UK group, and particularlysome work around Stenhouse's work,

    • 12:29

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: again, with social and community orientation,some of it much more educationally oriented,but more in the UK.So a variation on Kurt Lewin's work,but still adhering to that same "let'sopen up to collaborative and improvement orientation"

    • 12:49

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: around what we do with research.And then subsequent to that, action research--it's been viral in terms of the waythat it's gone around the world.Many, many Australians seem to have got very involved.And I'm not an Australian.But I've been quite connected with that community.

    • 13:11

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: They certainly were very involvedin some of the spread throughout the world.The Action Learning Action Research Association,for example, ALARA, has got a world congressthat's coming up in about three weekstime, which is the most international action researchgroup that I know.But now there are action research societiesjust about everywhere throughout the world.

    • 13:33

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: Again, there is quite a flavor associatedwith particular types.Participatory action research-- hugelyassociated with some of the low socioeconomic sortof conditions for people wanting to improve social conditions.And, in educational action research group--

    • 13:53

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: which is particularly strong obviously in the schooland education sector-- but they're equally justas many other groups that have popped up and are thrivingthat have got a focus in other contexts.So it is everywhere.[Which key thinkers or theories have most inspired you?]

    • 14:15

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: Which key thinkers and theories have most inspired me?Well, when you have to do a lit review for a doctorate,you kind of get the whole spread of the field.And any student that's doing action research for a thesiswill get to know that.But there are so many that have inspired meand for different reasons.Like, there are theorists that I would categorize

    • 14:37

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: in a very emancipatory action research contextand set of beliefs and who have really pushed the boundariesin terms of wanting to think about how do wechange the world and society and the social equality in society?And some of that work is just extraordinary.

    • 15:00

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: Guba and Lincoln's thinking aroundaction research is well encapsulatedin their qualitative methodology texts and writing.And they talk quite a lot about this kind of emancipatorythrough to sometimes quite a technical kind of approachto action research, which might be more oriented

    • 15:22

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: towards the sort of improvement that I've talked about,with faculty wanting to improve the way that they teachwith students, or teachers wantingto improve what they're doing in the classroom,for example, which would be-- If there'sa continuum from emancipatory to practical sort of the end,it's the more practical end.But we've got researchers that fit

    • 15:44

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: in to all of that continuum.Some have really influenced me significantly.I really respect some of the work that's just come outthat's been published in the latest Encyclopedia of ActionResearch, which is Coghlan and Brydon-Miller's encyclopediathat was developed a year ago, in 2014,

    • 16:06

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: at the end of the year.So some of the most recent thinking is in there.And it's from people all the way around the world.It's kind of-- as an encyclopedia does, goesthrough every letter with what it is that weknow about action research.For "reflection," for example, it'sall the key theorists around that, et cetera.So those that have particularly resonated with me personally--

    • 16:30

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: and this is probably for more personal reasons--I love Coghlan and Brannick's little bookthat they've written about action researchbecause it's easy to follow, a nice practical example.Students would find that easy to follow,rather than some of the more vague descriptions, whichI think students might find quite difficult to follow

    • 16:50

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: because they're a little too open-ended for a beginner.I think, as you become more experienced,you can go to the open-ended end of the spectrum.But, as a beginner, Coghlan and Brannickhas got some beautiful work in therethat's very easily followed.Right brain reason; nice work around emancipatory stuffand social context; Jean McNiff, who's

    • 17:12

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: talked about some of the spin-offs from action researchand how you deal with those-- those are all people that Iquote in my writing.Pring's work around some of the ethical stuff around actionresearch and bias and some of the thingsthat I talked about a little earlier with that.Probably one of my greatest mentors, not necessarily

    • 17:33

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: the writing so much, but just from a personal levelat the mentoring level-- Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt's work outof Australia.She's written probably a book a year on action research.Some of them I've helped co-author some work.And her mentoring of other people in action researchis absolutely unqualified.

    • 17:54

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: There is nobody that has reached anything like whatshe's done with the mentoring.Jack Whitehouse-- Whitehead, sorry,in the UK-- huge work with peoplein the dialectical, dialogical, and emancipatory end of actionresearch.Again, it just could go on and on and on.But I just want to mention one other person.There's a guy in Australia called Bob Dick.

    • 18:17

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: And Bob set up an action research online site.He's been running that for over probably 20 years now.And he probably has influenced more peopleand helped more people with that site than anybody elsethat I know.So, yeah, there's lots of people, lots of people.

    • 18:38

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: [What advice would you give to a student embarking on an actionresearch project for the first time?]So advice to a student on starting outwith action research-- I think I probably somewhatanswered this a little earlier.But I think the open-endedness-- I watch with my students.They get very seduced by-- as I did-- and absolutely engrossed

    • 19:02

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: in the open-ended.We can try to change the world.This is a really amazing approachto do research in terms of its-- Icould do anything using methodologyand methods, et cetera.But that has a little bit of a trap for new students,for novice students.And I've also watched students become

    • 19:23

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: utterly overwhelmed with an open-ended, totallyopen-ended approach.Now, not to say that there's anything wrong with that.And I encourage that with my students.But I also think that it's good to have somethingas a model, something as a guide to begin with so that you are,as a student, a little bit more framed up about the way

    • 19:44

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: that you do the research itself.I've examined some doctoral theses where students did nothave that.And the students have come in for quite some criticismbecause they have really quite substantiallynot been focused on what it is they need to be reporting on.So first piece of advice, do try to follow

    • 20:07

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: something that gives you some structure around what you'redoing.Or else I think, as a student, you might get slightly swampedin what you're trying to do.The second piece of advice that I would haveis to find someone that's a mentor in the waythat-- My mentor found me and immediately started

    • 20:30

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: to work with me, to somewhat develop meas a little bit of an action researcher look-alike in termsof the way that they were operating themselves.Not necessarily anybody needs to do that.But I would say everyone needs a mentor.

    • 20:51

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: Everyone needs somebody that they'vegot that's going to be out there supporting them and showingthem what to do and what the field is likeand how passionate they are about the field.Because it's the passion with action researchersthat's probably more important than anything else is.So mentors are important.[What are the common mistakes made by new researchers when

    • 21:11

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: doing action research fieldwork for the first time?]So I think I have quite substantially already coveredoff what the mistakes might be that students-- the traps fall,that students fall into and how they might address those.So the issue of being overwhelmed--and that's not just with having no approach or model to be

    • 21:36

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: framing up what you're doing.It also includes overwhelm with maybe collecting too much dataand not knowing what to do with that databecause there's no structure around what mighthave been collected, right?So yeah, as a novice, keep it a little bit tighterthan you might have thought mighthave been acceptable just to keep within the framework

    • 21:58

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: of action research.And then I've also talked about getting a mentor because Ithink that's really important for avoiding all the traps thatmight be involved.And the issue that I raised a little earlier about bias--I think it's important for studentsto have someone who's a mentor, who knowsabout the traps around bias.

    • 22:20

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: So halfway through the research isa little late to be finding out that you're actuallyethically doing something that may not be acceptable and needto backtrack and find all sorts of waysto cover up and remediate what it is that might have happened,yeah, because it's privilege, position, power over,et cetera.[What does being an ethical researcher mean to you?

    • 22:40

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: Why are ethics important?]Well, I think in action research,ethics are incredibly important.Because we all talk as action researchersabout wanting to be open, wanting to be transparent,wanting to have as much as possible our bias reduced.

    • 23:04

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: The way that we frame up ethically,the way that we work with people is absolutely critical.In a project that I'm leading at the moment wespent two days working out what our rules--although I hate that word; that's not the right word--but the way that we would operate together,the way that we would communicate and collaborate

    • 23:27

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: authentically in the way that I talked aboutbefore, the way that we would dialoguewith each other, the way that we would reduceour bias by cross-checking and triangulatingeach other's work,the way that we would reduce our privileged position if we weredoing work with people who knew usor where we'd worked in power-over positions

    • 23:48

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: with by making sure that somebody else actuallycollected that data for us where that happened to be the case.So ethically, I think it is crucial to work outat the beginning of something that is associated with actionresearch what it is that you need to be clear about, finding

    • 24:08

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: out, as a student, about what the university ethicsguidelines are around power-over, conflictof interest, bias, and being able to work with those reallyclearly and transparently.[What new research directions do you find most exciting?Where would you like to take your own research?]

    • 24:30

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: So new research directions with action research--well, I'm right in the middle of it at the moment.I've had quite an interest in wantingto show that this is a valid, highly respected formof research that can stand alongside any other form

    • 24:52

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: of research.It's not only embarrassing, but I'mtired of trying to convince colleagues that are notaction researchers of the validityand the value of action research.So with-- and when I say "we"-- seven other internationalaction researchers and myself have embarked on a massive,

    • 25:17

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: international, global evaluation of action research to find outwhat process elements work well with people, what outcomes,outputs, impacts, there are that people are reporting for actionresearch.And not just the researchers themselves--the action researchers-- but how do

    • 25:38

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: all of the people that have been impacted by that researchreport-- those sort of outcomes and impactsthat the researchers themselves are reporting.So big, big project.We have the pilots completed for the case studies.We have a project directory, which is nearly

    • 25:59

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: completed with 200 projects internationallythat we've drawn on that are in the directory.And we have developed tools, obviously,and methods that are going to be usedwith all of those people, all of those projects involved.So a massive scale that we've been involved in.And seven people working collaboratively

    • 26:21

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: on an action research project hasmeant that we've had to develop our own protocols, our own setof ethics around the way that we work together.And we've been working together for two years now.And we are thriving.It could not be a more exciting team to work with.So we're hoping to model what action research is doingcollaboratively as a group of action researchers

    • 26:44

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: at kind of a meta-level for evaluating action research.And it's been a really exciting process to be a part of.So that's the future research direction for me personally.There are lots of others that people are involved in as well.But that's what's exciting me, yeah.[Do you see business and management as a field which isahead of or behind the curve in terms of innovation in research

    • 27:06

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: and research methods?]Do I see business and business management ahead or behindthe field?I can talk for action research.Actually I can talk for other research fields as well.I think there have been generationsof different research approaches thathave been attracted to business and management

    • 27:27

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: throughout the decades.But I've seen a growing interest in action research,particularly over the last 20 years,within the business and management fields.So there is kind of a subset of action research processmanagement which was very popular

    • 27:50

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: and still is quite popular in the UK.And there are a group of people who are almost exclusivelybusiness-oriented that are involvedin that field of action research.Project management and action researchseem to be growing in a kind of interest area at the moment.I've got a number of colleagues who

    • 28:11

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: are working within process and project management who are nowadopting a much more collaborative approach--an action research approach-- to what they're doing.But generally speaking, I am seeing across the globea very strong attraction for researchersfrom just about every field-- sociological or otherwise--

    • 28:32

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: to actually be showing that they're collaborativelyworking "with" rather than "on" peoplethat they're conducting research around.So I see that there's going to be a growing trend with that,more collaborative, more involved,higher levels of ownership from people

    • 28:54

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: when they are more involved.No longer just walking in the white-coated researcher,collecting the data, and walking out again.Because I think, particularly in developing countries,there's a huge awareness that that just does not wash.It doesn't work.We have to have communities that are growing with the knowledge,

    • 29:17

      EILEEN PIGGOT-IRVINE [continued]: growing with the improvement, so that theycan do that sustainably without the researcher beingthere at the end the process.So, yeah, I'm seeing a growth in the field of action research.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Action Research

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Abstract

Professor Eileen Piggot-Irvine explains action research as research that doesn't conclude with data collection, but continues through an action in response to the research findings. She discusses how action research can be utilized best and where it is going in the future. Piggot-Irvine also discusses some of the drawbacks to using action research.

SAGE Video Experts
Action Research

Professor Eileen Piggot-Irvine explains action research as research that doesn't conclude with data collection, but continues through an action in response to the research findings. She discusses how action research can be utilized best and where it is going in the future. Piggot-Irvine also discusses some of the drawbacks to using action research.

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