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Proceedings of ECER 2004 round table on 'action research' and a VET framework of innovation
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'Action research' and a VET framework of innovation

DISCUSSION  > Concept of action research> Role of the actors > Process of action research >  Final remark

Process of action research

Christine Teelken 

I think we should stop talking about what action research is, because it’s such a broad concept. I also think we should not discuss any longer whether it’s important or not, because everyone agrees on that as well. The major thing is how it should be taken care of. The main questions in Elly’s presentation were ‘how’, and Ludger posed some ‘how’ questions as well. I particularly like one of your overheads where you make a comparison between the traditional scientific research and the features of action research. Perhaps we should head for a new kind of protocol in action research where we combine traditional features of methodology, responsibility, validity – all these things, and the more sophisticated features of action research. Perhaps you should try to aim for that. I think that’s much more interesting to talk about than what action research is.

Eduardo Figueira 

I quite agree with this idea to develop research and to create knowledge, with the different involvement of actors. I agree with this concept. My question, my problem is: how can we conceptualise the different agendas and the different aims of the different actors?

Ludger Deitmer 

This certainly is our question too, and it is not too easy to answer that. These are processes which go on for two or three years. First of all, the actors are in the centre of this accompaniment process. The researchers are not at all just observers, but they are also active in the process, by using specific tools to derive new data. This sounds very technical, but the aim is to get research insights out of that process. Self-evaluation of the different agendas is needed to know how and what kind of specific new knowledge has developed under the individual and collective perception of the innovation process. We in the ITB have developed actor centred evaluation methods (the EE-Tool within the COVOSECO project) to find that out.
    On the other hand, we need to be clear that at the moment there is nobody who will finance a project accompaniment where the researcher can visit all project meetings for three years . The researcher person days he can invest are rather limited. So he may concentrate on catalytic and reflexive tasks. These could include more or less supportive self-evaluation among practitioners, in which he stimulates project actors in an evaluation workshop. In this workshop the actors undertake a criteria led assessment process of their past action, facilitated by the researcher. The researcher can derive insights from the project under investigation, in relation to specific criteria. This is then documented, and followed by a feedback discussion to develop a new agenda with the practioners. 
    Then you have a double process. You have something which may be relevant for the practitioners, because they have reflected on what is consent and dissent in assessing relevant knowledge within their network or pilot, what is on the agenda at the moment, what are the new knowledge insights and what should be on the future agendas. This reflection in action could be very relevant for the researcher too, because he could do similar activities in other innovation networks or pilots. A comparison of networks or pilot perceptions on innovation processes could be the result, which can deliver theories of practise. New context-bound knowledge could be derived as a result of this group discussion. This dialogue between scientific and local actors could help to overcome organisational problems within VET institutions.

Elly de Bruijn

Maybe we can learn from policy research, because the new generation of policy researchers explicitly work with actors having different agendas, and they are concerned with the issue of how to address these various agendas in order to make valuable contributions/research for policy processes. But I agree with Ludger, it’s very difficult, because that is our question too. If you really want to do it you need lots of money. 
    In these later concepts of our new programme, which is about strengthening vocational education by intensive cooperation in the region aiming at diminishing drop out rates and stimulating progression to higher vocational qualifications, we dare try to work with what I call knowledge communities. We use several instruments, tools of the consultant to do that. These knowledge communities consist of people of the enterprises, people of schools, project managers, researchers, experts and consultants. By confrontation of examples from various local practices, external knowledge sources and research results these communities are working on new knowledge that is useful for innovating practice, but has general value too. There are various knowledge communities addressing to particular themes and problem areas, for instance competence based training, pro-active regional knowledge infrastructures, co-makership, career education and so on. We have a kind of intake period in this concept, of some months, and we go talking with all those contributors to that community, on their expectations and the agenda, to come to a consensus of how we work and define the precise results we aim for. We have six of those circles, and I expect every circle is going to work differently, because the agendas are different. We apply much of the competences and the tools of consultants to facilitate these work processes and combine this with the competencies of researchers to validate and explicit the knowledge products that we aim for.

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