Emerging Action Research Traditions: Rigor in Practice

Emerging Action Research Traditions: Rigor in Practice

Karen E. Watkins (College of Education, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA), Aliki Nicolaides (College of Education, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA) and Victoria J. Marsick (Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City, NY, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJAVET.2016070107


The authors argue here that contemporary use of action research shares the exploratory, inductive nature of many qualitative research approaches—no matter the type of data collected—because the type of research problems studied are set in complex, dynamic, rapidly changing contexts and because action research is undertaken to support social and organizational change that requires buy-in from many stakeholders affected by the research problem. Action research serves as a critique and alternative to more traditional views of social science. In this article, the authors first describe action research as defined by Kurt Lewin, its originator. They show how two variants of action research—Action Science and Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry—advance insight into how action research can be used to develop personal capability to address system changes that action research seeks to unveil. By using the example of an innovative action research approach to doctoral research, the authors illustrate the context-rich, exploratory nature of action research that both generates knowledge for and in change, and developmentally engages collaborating researchers and participants. They conclude with reflections on criteria for rigor and relevance in action research in today's post-modern, complex world.
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This paper explores the initial framing of action research as a much needed alternative research approach in the social sciences within a positivist research tradition, and then offers emerging variations both in organizational practice and in a doctoral program to demonstrate how action research has evolved. With this evolution, new criteria for rigor are needed. This article offers a new perspective on validity in action research.

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