Action Research Essay

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action research, there may be many cycles because of the need to find evidence that supports the hypothesis. Action research might have multiple cycles by design, but it might simply require multiple cycles in order to complete the research. At other times, action research can be refined through each cycle. If the first cycle does not work as well as hoped -- and there are a significant number of variables inherent in action research -- then subsequent cycles can help to refine and improve the research. By working out the faults in the research methodology, the research can thereby be improved.

The term iterative, when referring to action research, means cyclical. Each cycle is an iteration, so iterative research is one that requires many cycles to work through. When the research learns from the first cycle, makes improvements for the second cycle, and this has all been built into the research design, that is an iterative process (McNiff, 2014).

The iterative nature of action research supports a long-term life cycle with many iterations, because with each cycle, the researcher learns things that will help the study to improve. With each cycle representing an opportunity for improvement, multiple cycles over a long period of time -- time that allows for reflection and refinement of the processes and ideas in the study -- will inevitably result in a stronger study.

The generation of knowledge is so important in action research because that knowledge is the basis of future research. The knowledge generated in a single cycle or iteration can also be used as the basis of future cycles, so it is important that the researcher learns something from each cycle, allowing for the overall research quality to improve each time.

Phase 2, Discussion Board 3

Part II. Systems theory is the study of systems, that everything can be understood as a complex system of interrelated parts. This theory can be applied to research as well, because the total research project is a system; or the research can be directed at the study of an existing system, such as an organization. Socio-technical systems theory is an academic theory that seeks to understand the relationship that people have with machines, usually applied to an organizational paradigm. The social system is focused on culture, norms and roles while the technical system is the equipment and methods used to transform raw materials. Put together, you have the interaction between the social and technical, embodied in socio-technical systems theory (Applebaum, 1997). Flood (2010) notes that social constructions in this world tend to be systematic, as part of a greater system.

An open system is one that constantly is open to outside influence. Most corporations would be open systems. A closed system is one that is not open to outside influence. A laboratory experiment would be a closed system, where all elements of the system can be controlled and are not subject to random external influence.

Systems theory can be applied to action research in a couple of ways. Action research, especially that which has multiple cycles and an iterative approach, often studies complex entities such as organizations that operate as systems. One of the benefits of multiple cycles of action research is that it allows researchers to identify trends that hold up even when there have been many different types of influences, to determine which trends are systemic in nature and which trends are the result of one-time outside influence. Action research can play a significant role in the understanding of different systems. A consulting project is a natural application of systems theory, because both the charity and the restaurant are examples of open systems. My consulting role is to identify problems and find solutions. Those solutions are going to inherently affect the entire system of these organizations, so my consulting work is definitely going to require an understanding of systems theory in order to generate meaningful results for my clients.

Feedback is an important part of the action research process. Feedback is also how one understands how a system works. By studying the feedback that the system gives to different stimulus, it is easier to understand how that feedback works. The benefits for a system to understanding feedback is that the system can respond to that feedback and become better, either reinforcing the positive feedback or avoiding that which delivers negative feedback.

Phase 2 Individual Project

Most of the sources on action research describe it pretty much the same way, so I am not sure about the large number of sources requested for this assignment. I am not thinking I want to bludgeon my organizations over the head with academic theory. They need to understand what I will be doing, but it is for me to understand action research, process consultation and appreciative inquiry. So maybe I'm missing something.

Action research is, in essence, research undertaken in order to solve a problem. The consulting situation is a perfect example of action research. Each organization has a problem, and the consulting challenge is to identify the problem(s), its root cause(s) and then devise solutions (O'Brien, 1998). This is an iterative process, specifically because these organizations are complex systems and it takes time to understand which responses are driven by external forces and which are driven by the system itself.

Action research is something that people have been doing since before we were people. Indeed, animals conduct action research to learn new skills like finding food and surviving both weather and predators. Lewin developed the concept by observing groups of people -- his observations were the source of the modern study of action research but it existed long before the process was expressly understood in the modern research context.

As a consultant/academic, action research to me is a more formalized variant of this, where I will take advantage of the years of study on action research to be able to (ideally) bring about better results more quickly, by having a sound understanding of the iterative process and guiding this process.

Schein (1995) argues that process consultation is different from action research in terms of perspective, that process consultation is essentially where the consultant works with the client. In action research, the consultant might take control of the situation, where in process consultation the client is in control, and the consultant plays a different role, more akin to an advisor, rather than someone who identifies problems and prescribes solutions. There should not be any dependency for the client on the consultant in a process consultation situation, as Schein defines it. Schein argues that employees are often able to help solve problems once there is recognition that the problems are shared throughout the organization. This somewhat different from action research, where there might be less collaboration at this part of the process and there remains a dependency relationship between the consultant and the organization.

Appreciative inquiry is defined as "the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations and the relevant world around them (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2014). This approach has been specifically characterized as positive, essentially solving problems by looking at what is going right and focusing on how to build that elsewhere in the organization (Hill, 2014), and can be applied in a consultative situation where the consultant is specifically seeking to maximize the outcomes for the people and the organization. This is something that might specifically be applicable to the family restaurant -- everybody who works there is going to be there pretty much by definition of the business. So the key is to find the ways for each person to maximize their potential and to do this within the concept of having the business maximize its potential as well.

Appreciative inquiry can be guided by an outside consultant, and often this approach works well because insiders in a failing organization can only see the negative side of things. Appreciative inquiry differs from action research again in that the consultant does not actively seek to change the organization, but to provide advice to the people within the organization and build them up a bit. Appreciative inquiry is closer to action research than is process consultation, because more of the change is in the sphere of the consultant, but appreciative inquiry is specifically positive in nature, whereas action research might not be, depending on the findings of the consultant.

These three different techniques are similar in their basic structure, but they different significantly in terms of underlying philosophy. By looking at the roots of these methodologies -- having examined Lewin for action research and Schein for process consultation in particular -- it is easier to understand these differences, which in turn allows the consultant to have a better sense of which of these types will work better. Action research maybe has fewer boundaries because the consultant can be positive or negative, and the consultant can also determine his or her level of involvement.

Phase 2, Discussion Board 2

The self is the main instrument for…[continue]

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