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Innovative learning in action (ILIA) issue four: New academics engaging with action research

By V Caruana


This edition of ILIA showcases four papers which were originally submitted as action research projects on the\ud Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Practice and Research programme. Within the programme we offer an environment where participants can explore their unique teaching situations – not to produce all-encompassing\ud approaches to Higher Education (HE) practice but to develop\ud an ongoing dialogue about the act of teaching.\ud In effect, there are no generalisable ‘best’ methods of teaching because they never work as well as ‘locally\ud produced practice in action’ (Kincheloe, 2003:15). Thus rather than providing short term ‘survival kits’ the programme offers new HE teachers a ‘frame’ for examining their own and their colleagues’ teaching alongside questioning educational purpose and values in the pursuit of pedagogical improvement.\ud This ‘frame’ is action research which Ebbutt (1985:156) describes as: …The systematic study of attempts to\ud change and improve educational practice by groups of participants by means of their own practical actions\ud and by means of their own reflections upon the effects of their actions… We promote ‘practitioner-research’ or\ud ‘teacher-research’ as a way of facilitating professional development for new HE teachers, promoting change and giving a voice to their developing personal and professional knowledge. \ud Teachers as researchers embark upon an action orientated, iterative and collaborative process to interrogate their\ud own practices, question their own assumptions, attitudes, values and beliefs in order to better understand, influence and enrich the context of their own situations.\ud The action researcher assumes that practitioners are knowledgeable about their own teaching situations and the\ud fact that they are ‘in-situ’ and not at ‘arms length’ as the value-neutral, ‘scientific’ researcher is often claimed to be, does not invalidate their knowledge.\ud Thus, practitioners are capable of analysing their own actions within a ‘reflective practitioner’ modus operandi.\ud Action research is on-going in conception and well suited to examining the ever-changing and increasingly complex HE practice environment. Findings from action research are always subject to revision since it intrinsically acknowledges the need to constantly revisit widely diverse\ud teaching situations and scenarios across everyday HE practice. Teaching is not predictable and constant, it always occurs in a contemporary microcosm of uncertainty. Action research provides an analytical framework for new HE\ud teachers to begin to engage with this unpredictability on a continuing basis, that is its purpose and also its perennial challenge. \ud The papers presented here describe how four relatively new HE teachers have begun to address the challenge of\ud improving their practice within their locally based settings utilising the action research ‘paradigm’

Topics: LB, LB2300, other
Publisher: Education Development Unit, University of Salford
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