12    Participation (2)


Speaking only for myself ...


In the previous occasional piece I mused upon participation, ideology, and the influence of labels.

I mentioned some contradictions I had noticed.  That I had often been criticised for suggesting that action research might occasionally be less than participative.  That I had sometimes been criticised for suggesting the evaluation might be at all participative.

To continue the theme, it seems to me that supporters of different varieties of action research hold different views.  Just as the labels "action research" and "evaluation" sometimes direct our beliefs, so do those different varieties.

For example, I know some consultants who use action research in their organisational change work.  Some of them offer more direct involvement to the senior managers than to others.

My own consulting work was influenced by the traditions of organisation development.  There it was seen as important to involve as many as possible.  And to this day, I still try to negotiate with the presenting client that I wish to represent all the stakeholders, not just some.

Some practitioners in this field regard themselves as favouring those in lowly positions over those in more senior positions.  Similarly in the field of advocacy, the disadvantaged are well represented.  The advantaged sometimes are not.

A further example.  In classroom research, it is not all that unusual for the research not to involve the pupils.  It is self-research, though there are other stakeholders.

I do some of this myself by reflecting on my own practice and drawing my own conclusions about what worked, what didn't, and why and why not.  There isn't always an easy opportunity to involve anyone else.

The meaning of "participation", it seems, is at least to some extent in the eyes of the beholder.

And similar with extent and type of participation ...

Are we to involve stakeholders as informants? Yes, usually.  How else are we to get access to the needed data.  In data interpretation? Perhaps.  In action planning? Often.  In designing the research study? Perhaps, perhaps not.

I might add that I don't think there is a "best" form of participation in any absolute sense.  Personally, I value high levels.  I think most people who know me well would report that my educational work and my consulting work strive to achieve those high levels.

I think it would be presumptuous of me -- and in a sense ironically non-participative -- to assume that that is right for everyone else too.




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 (2).  Occasional
pieces in action research methodology, # 12.  Available online at

Version 1.2;  last modified 20000101


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