11    Participation (1)


Speaking only for myself ...


That's how I usually start these occasional pieces: "speaking only for myself".  I do so because that's how I prefer it.  I offer this statement as an sign that I have no wish to persuade you to my point of view.  I don't claim my view (thoughtfully held though I believe it usually is) as the "truth".  My intention is to raise issues and invite you to think about them.

I think that "speaking only for myself" may have an additional purpose for this occasional piece.  It seems to me that the issue of participation is influenced more by ideology than the pragmatism that informs much action research.  By labeling my views as just an opinion I may stir less resistance to thinking about the issues I mention.

I think that where participation in action research is concerned there is a "conventional mythology".  It is that participation is somehow "better" than non-participation.

I have a strong preference for participative approaches.  I do so both on ideological and pragmatic grounds.  Ideological, because that's my preferred position.  It's a personal ideology.  Pragmatic because the action research is intended to help people change.  It makes pragmatic sense to involve them deeply and directly.

But I don't understand why participation should be a necessity.  Why not match the extent of participation to the purpose of the research?

I have been more vehemently criticised for this view than for any other view I've offered about action research.

Another of my interests is evaluation.  The evaluation methodology I use is action research.  Almost always I do it participatively.  And I have been criticised occasionally for that.  It appears that in some (not all) evaluation circles, the conventional mythology is that non-participation is "better" than participation.

Interesting? I think so.

Do you think it could be that we are guided by the labels "action research" or "evaluation"? Do we allow the labels to function as a substitute for thought?




Copyright Bob Dick 1998-2000.  May be copied if it is not included in any
material sold at a profit, and this and the following notice are shown

This may be cited as:   Bob Dick (1998) Participation (1).  Occasional
pieces in action research methodology, # 1.  Available online
at http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/gcm/ar/arm/op000.html

Version 1.2;  last modified 20000101


These "occasional pieces" form part of a substantial action research site at
Southern Cross University.  To access the "front page" of the site, click