- Group 2 – Article 8: Fostering Inclusivity Through Teaching and Learning Action Research
- Group 1 – Article 8: Fostering Inclusivity Through Teaching and Learning Action Research
- Group 1 – Article 7: The Cyclical Process of Action Research
- Group 2 – Article 7: The Cyclical Process of Action Research
- Group 2 – Article 6: Critical Literacy for School Improvement: An Action Research Project
This multifaceted article addresses the topic of teaching action research (AR) in post-secondary environments by intertwining literature on teaching AR with the authors’ personal experience designing and implementing an AR inspired course. They begin the article by highlighting that, as a whole, AR is rarely taught in post-secondary environments. Those that have taught and published their experiences teaching AR paradigms report feeling alone in their efforts. That being said, the existing literature, though seemingly sparse, seems to offer the overall suggestion that “the process of teaching and learning about AR paradigms should broadly reflect the values of the paradigm itself and should thus include elements of participation, action, and social justice within the educational framework.” The authors seemed to have used this general consensus in the literature as inspiration for creating their own, unquestionably alternative, joint nursing and social work research course on poverty and homelessness. Interestingly, the course was not called an AR course, but rather a community-based research course. The authors did not get into too many details regarding this title choice, versus simply calling it an AR course, but my assumption is that they perceive community-based research to be under the more general AR umbrella. The course was alternative in many ways: it took place at an inner-city homeless shelter, the homeless community as well as faculty at the shelter took the course along with university students, and all participants – including course instructors – were considered “learners” in the course. This design was intended to promote inclusivity, and to give students opportunities to learn “with and in” the community. It was purposefully aimed to deconstruct and question traditional research paradigms as well as power and oppression models.
After introducing the course and its context, the authors did not simply offer a direct overview of how the course went. Instead, they organized their reflection on the experience based on common themes found in the literature on teaching AR to post-secondary students. Upon completion of this literature-intwined overview, the authors shared that despite the course being seemingly successful, it was not offered again. They suggest that the reasons for this seem to mainly be rooted in university-based logistics and bureaucracy, not from inadequacies in the course itself. As a result, their closing suggestion is that co-learning with the community is an ideal way to introduce AR-based frameworks to undergraduate students.
I found this article to be in some ways very interesting, but in other ways over-complicated. I loved reading about how the authors entirely defied traditional undergraduate course paradigms for this seemingly trailblazing course that not only was located in a homeless shelter, but also invited shelter residents and faculty to join. In many ways, I feel like this style of learning fundamentally makes sense, particularly in regard to action research. For true change to happen we cannot expect it to solely come from only educated, privileged members of society, instead it is a multifaceted process that should involve as many community members as possible. That being said, I struggled generating a picture of what this course experience was actually like for participants. I think much of this had to do with the method in which the authors entwined major themes in AR literature to the explanation of the course experience. I am not saying that weren’t effective in discussing the course this way, but it made it more technical and hard to follow. In many ways I found myself wishing that they just gave more of a direct explanation of the day-to-day course experience and content, without separating it into themes related to literature. I feel that the course itself was trailblazing enough to warrant a direct explanation, without incorporating literature themes. I am curious if my group members felt this way as well? Did this method also cause you to finish reading without feeling like you truly understood how the course played out?
As a final note, as I was reading I was very curious about the experience of the homeless community members in the class. Did this experience truly benefit them, or were they there for the purpose of benefiting the privileged university students? While the authors made it clear that in theory they were there for their own benefit as well as the group’s, they did not really make their methods clear enough for me to be convinced that their experience wasn’t more sacrificial then beneficial. It caused me to make a connection to a “This American Life” podcast I listened to about the experience of black students being sent to an all white boarding school in the 1960s for the sheer benefit of the white students. I think that while this course could very well have been effective in addressing and confronting the “us” versus “them” mentality in society when it comes to marginalized people, it also came dangerously close, in my opinion, to possibly incorporating “them” for the benefit of “us.”
*If anyone is interested in the podcast here is the link: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/625/essay-b
Samantha, thank you for your summary. I felt as I read the article I had to keep rereading parts to make sure I truly understood what was going on. I agree with you, I wish I would have had a better understanding of what the course was all about.
I believe the course was successful because the students were learning together as a community. I always learn best by doing and learning as a group then individually.
You bring up a very interesting question about how the homeless students felt. Many times we think are intentions are correct, but we hurt others. I think the most important thing is to make sure that all members of group are aware of who each other are in order to have respect and create relationships together. If there is not a community, then like Samantha stated, I do worry if it only benefited one group of students.
Samantha, I appreciated your overview of the article, and your observations. I agree that the course sounded very interesting, and there is a need for more work that is done across academic boundaries. I was most interested in your question about who benefited. We have previously discussed the various ethical issues in AR, and how important it is that those involved are not manipulated. It does seem a bit strange that this was not discussed. I would have been interested in some discussion of the unique challenges that arose as a result of this being a course, as opposed to a project. Because, I assume there was teaching/direction going on. Did that have an impact on ethical issues?
Samantha, thank you for your insights and podcast recommendation. I agree with you in that I wish the article included more detailed descriptions of day-to-day experiences at the homeless shelter, especially since the authors exalt the importance of exposing budding action researchers to: “various action strategies that have been implemented in other projects” (p. 201). The being said, I still find the whole idea to be tremendous! My current experience with diverse school populations is very limited. I think I would have really benefited from a graduate course that was fully immersed in a challenging school or educational leadership situation. The tutoring element of the Reading II course in UR’s Teacher Licensure Program is the closest connection I can make to experiencing something like this.
Regarding the ethics of who really benefits from this community-collaborative experience, I think it all comes down to principles of full-disclosure which were discussed in the text for both the Research I & II course. I would hope that the authors of the article used appropriate and individually tailored communication methods to fully explain to all participants their role in the action research, as well as the objectives of the study. It may be impossible for everyone to share truly equal benefits, but as long as due diligence is made, I don’t think that should stop action research of this nature from taking place.
Samantha, you did a great job of clearly and concisely summarizing the article. I agreed with you on many points in your discussion, specifically that true change cannot come from educated, privileged members of society alone. I do wish they had more clearly explained the course and its outcomes. I think the review of the literature was important, but that it should have remained separate from the explanation of the course itself. Lastly, I really appreciated your final remarks about the issue of who really benefited from this course. I was wondering the same thing myself. Again, I think it would have helped a little if there had been a more thorough explanation of the course and its outcomes. However, I would ideally like to hear from the homeless community members themselves. I did find it interesting as others have commented about, that the authors did not mention this in their discussion of ethics. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest ethical considerations that should have been made. Rachel, I agree in part with what you said regarding full-disclosure being provided to these homeless community members. At the same time, however, I feel that they could have felt pressured or obligated to participate.