What is Action Research?
Action Research is a method of applied, often organization-based, research whose fundamental tenet is that we learn through action, learn through doing and reflecting. Action research is used in “real world” situations, rather than in ideal, experimental conditions. It focuses on solving real world problems.
Although there are a number of strands of Action Research (AR) including: participatory action research, emancipatory research, co-operative inquiry, appreciative inquiry, all share a commitment to positively changing a concrete organizational or social challenge through a deliberate process of taking action, and reflecting on cycles of emergent learning. Kurt Lewin, one of the original theorists of AR said that: “If you want truly to understand something, try to change it.” Ultimately, Action Research is about learning though doing, indeed, learning through changing.
Collaboration and Co-Learning
Although Action Research uses many of the same methodologies as positivist empirical science (observation, collection of data, etc.), AR typically involves collaborating with, and gathering input from, the people who are likely to be affected by the research. As Gilmore, Krantz, and Ramirez point out in their article “Action Based Modes of Inquiry and the Host-Researcher Relationship,” Consultation 5.3 (Fall 1986): 161, “… there is a dual commitment in action research to study a system and concurrently to collaborate with members of the system in changing it in what is together regarded as a desirable direction. Accomplishing this twin goal requires the active collaboration of researcher and client, and thus it stresses the importance of co-learning as a primary aspect of the research process.”
(Retrieved from http://www.web.ca/robrien/papers/arfinal.html#_edn1)
Collaboration, Stakeholder Involvement, and Constructive Judgment for Program Strengthening
Brad Rose Consulting draws on the key ideas Action Research–collaboration and stakeholder involvement— to ensure that its evaluations are grounded in, and reflect the experience of program stakeholders. Because we work at the intersection of program evaluation (i.e. Does a program produce its intended results?) and organization development (i.e. How can an organization’s performance be enhanced, and how can we ensure that it better achieves it goals and purposes?), we know that the success of program evaluations depend in large part upon the involvement of all program stakeholders.
This means that we work with program stakeholders, (e.g. program managers, program staff, program participants, community members, etc.) to understand the intentions, processes, and experiences of each group. Brad Rose Consulting, Inc., begins each evaluation engagement by listening to clients and participants—including listening to their aspirations, their needs, their understanding of program objectives, and their experience (both positive and negative) participating in programs. Furthermore, we engage clients not as passive recipients of “expert knowledge,” but rather as co-learners who seek both to understand if a program is working, and how a program can be strengthened to better achieve its goals.
Ultimately we make evaluative judgments about the effectiveness of a program, but our approach to making such judgments is guided by our commitment to constructive judgments that help clients to achieve both intended programmatic outcomes (program results) and desired organizational goals. To learn more about our adaptive approach to evaluation visit our Feedback & Continuous improvement page.