Action Research in Organisations

On Friday October 11, 2019, up to 30 researchers participated in an interactive and in-depth discussion on “Action Research in Organisations”, organised by EAPRIL’s Clouds 11, 13 and 14. More specifically, via a fishbowl set-up, the following aspects were of discussion.

  1. The objective: What are the goals and aims of action research in organisations? Goals that are oriented to knowledge, change, creating or learning?
  2. How: How is action research related to organisational learning? What is learnt via action research, and by who, when, and how?
  3. Methodological choices: Which opportunities and challenges occur when executing action research in organisations? How do in-depth research, practical relevance, and ethical considerations interrelate?

Furthermore, the following statement was intensively discussed: As action researcher you are always a change manager. It became clear that there are various perspectives to take into account when talking about the ‘action researcher’.

  1. When action research has primarily a knowledge-oriented aim, we notice that the action researcher relies on change management competencies to come to knowledge development.
  2. When action research has primarily a change-oriented aim, we notice that the action researcher uses research as an intervention.
  3. When action research has both a knowledge- and change-oriented aim, we notice that both roles of the action researcher become inseparable, i.e. researcher and change manager.

As a result, it may be concluded that, regardless of the goals and role of the research, the combination of research and change management asks for specific and high-level competencies of the researcher. Furthermore, competencies that allow him to deal with chaos are vital for action researchers.

It is clear that we are all learning and disentangling action research as such. While experiencing what it means to be an action researcher, the following statement may serve a fruitful further discussion.

“The combination of researching and changing asks for a personal maturity and leadership of the researchers. As a result, action research asks for a high level of research maturity.”

A more detailed reflection on the above statements and conclusions can be consulted in the (Dutch) blog by Ann Van der Auweraert

By Ann Van der Auweraert – Ann is a Researcher and Senior Advisor Research in Education, affiliated to the Learning and Innovation Center of Avans Hogeschool, the Netherlands.