Source: Educational Action Research, Vol. 18, No. 4, December 2010, 429–451.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The objective of this article was to describe collaboration of the collaborative action research participants in detail and describe what they have learned.
The action research of the participants described in this study aimed at improving Dutch L1 education. The goal was to develop education that would be more motivating and relevant for students to receive and inspiring and challenging for teachers to teach.
This study reported considers the following research questions:
(1) How do participants in a research partnership collaborate to create a communicative space?
(2) What can be learned from the challenges and possibilities in partnerships between teachers, college instructors (facilitators) and academic researchers?
Contextual and communicative conditions
A collaborative action research project requires time and effort from participants to get underway and be carried forward. Two interrelated conditions can be discerned in these processes that are important for the formation and sustaining of a collaborative action research partnership:
(1) Contextual conditions – a supportive context for the research project needs to be created. In this study, a set of research articles was compiled as part of the contextual conditions to create an inspiring context for the participants, and this set was distributed at the beginning of the second year.
(2) Communicative conditions (in speech or writing) – at least as important as contextual conditions is the willingness of participants to engage in free and open communication and dialogue.
Participants and Process of the study
The participants were fourteen secondary teachers who came from different regions of the Netherlands, three facilitators and an academic researcher.
The teachers were divided into three regional groups and each was accompanied by a facilitator (college instructors) and the academic researcher.
The participants implemented their action research in their daily classes to research the possibilities of ‘concept-context-rich’ education.
The findings suggest that participants contributed to the collaboration by investing time and effort (contextual conditions) and by staying open, taking each others’ opinions seriously and learning how to be critical without passing judgment (communicative conditions).
The participants shifted in their roles and interactions.
This partnership consisted of three kinds of stakeholders (facilitator, teacher and academic researcher) and this complicated matters further because the authors found that some of the participants roles and responsibilities overlapped. The authors had to find a balance in the interplay of roles and communications. And in doing so they became aware of the communicative space they were trying to form.
All the participants had to find ways of contributing to the partnership, and when they did the participants came to appreciate the freedom and support the collaborative action research offered.
The participants reported feeling challenged and inspired by the collaboration and the partnership, and contacts between the participants continued for some time after the project had ended.
Furthermore, the teachers reported student involvement, engagement and motivation because of this collaboration.
The authors also used metaphors of facilitative actions – map, magnifying glass, mirror and compass – formulated by Wadsworth to analyze and describe the collaboration.
The metaphors provided a useful analytical tool to describe and analyze the participants’ collaboration.
The metaphors proved particularly suited for this study because each stakeholder could be reflected in each of the four metaphors.
The authors claim that the collaboration described by the metaphors shows that facilitation and collaboration are the responsibilities of every participant of the partnership and the metaphors can help us discern in what way a communicative space is being formed.
The authors argue that successful collaboration that includes the knowledge and questions of the participants offers an open space for authentic learning through dialogue.