Kaleidoscope of Voices

Categories: Academic Writing Month, Action Research, Research Roles

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The MethodSpace focus for October was on Action Research, and we are continuing to share posts on these participatory methods. November is Academic Writing Month with a 2020 focus on Publishing Trends (and what they mean for academic writers.) One of the trends, towards increased reliance on collaboration in research and writing, is discussed here. You can find the unfolding series of Action Research posts through this link, and you can find the AcWriMo posts through this link.

We benefit greatly from engaging voices of others beyond self. As action researchers, the success of our work is reliant upon these additional voices, or stakeholders. They are central to our collaborative work. This collaboration begins when we invite stakeholders into the conversation and research process, or when they initiate an inquiry process and invite us in. And, this invite stage is often the “easy part”. But very quickly, and as the research project ensues, balancing the array of voices and thought that emerges becomes both energizing and complex. Managing and highlighting this kaleidoscope reflective of voices, experiences, and thought, though, is also what becomes the “most rewarding part”. It is the vibrance of representation of difference and moments of intersection that bring about authentic and sustainable change made possible through action research.

Stringer & Ortiz Aragón (2021) provide support in this relational aspect of our action research work. They remind us of the importance of accepting others for who they are and not who we hope for them to be and maintaining harmony while doing so. Complicated as these relationships may be, a few standard practices offer simple solutions.

Acceptance – As a lead researcher this is enacted through your role as active listener. Your aim is to investigate, facilitate, and provide the space for others to have their voices heard. In this information gathering state, acknowledgement and respect of the unique experiences individuals bring to the table is the goal. For example, in initial conversations related to how others experience the problem linked to the research, the researcher adopts a kaleidoscope-like lens and looks to gather or “see” new spins or iterations and interpretations of the issue. Understanding this myriad of reality is required in order to implement solutions or actions to resolve the problem.

Harmony – Group dynamics are a driving force when considering the potential for harmony. Although unable to predict the specifics of the dynamics that evolve, very clear articulation, establishment and commitment to group norms, well formed group goals pertaining to research questions, action steps, and evaluation, and clarity in roles and responsibilities help to bring the team back to center when voices and opinions may stray off course. This preliminary, grounding work most often occurs during the first meeting of stakeholders and is continually revisited, adapted as needed, and visibly present during each follow-up meeting, as well.

Our work as action researchers challenges us to cultivate and sustain relationships. High level active stakeholder engagement vastly broadens our scope and cannot be dismissed. As we move forward with our research – and in our day to day worlds – acceptance and harmony become promising routes for embracing a kaleidoscope of voices.

Stringer, E. T. & Ortiz Aragón, A. (2021). Action Research (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing. 

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