The Plural Structure of Action Research
Action Research is by its own definition messy. Bilorusky calls this its Plural Structure, because the very foundation of the process is the acceptance of a multiplicity of views, commentaries and critiques. The messiness is welcome as a fertile ground of discovery. Complication increases when attempts are made to evaluate specific learning. Diagnostic stages throw up a multiplicity of possible actions and interpretations, so, consequently a plural structure of inquiry requires a plural text for reporting.
Various teachers could interpret the same data, but, choose differently from a range of competing options when planning a way forward. The results of the research could lead to a variety of outcomes and strategies. How delightful!
Co-researchers can now ask these kinds of questions:
- "Which response brought about the most productive change for my class?"
- "Are the varieties of responses complimentary and mutually supportive?"
- "If the class next door chooses differently from the range of available options, will it lead to a synergy that will transmute to even better possibilities over time?"
Bilorusky says that there will be many accounts made explicit, with commentaries on their contradictions, and a range of options for action presented. We can see why this will lead us into new questions and another spiral of a deeper and wider level.
"A report, therefore, acts as a support for ongoing discussion among collaborators, rather than a final conclusion of fact." (Bilorusky. 2003)
What at first seems to be over whelming messiness, is now exciting. Theory informs practice, and practice refines theory, in a continuous transformation. Implicitly held assumptions, theories and hypotheses, are made explicit as observed results inform researchers and theoretical knowledge is enhanced. There is a transformable cycle that continuously alternates emphasis between theory and practice.
Teachers will become better able to deal with complications and to predict what is right for their situation. Because the classroom is "their domain" they will be the ones to decide, which data is the most appropriate to collect. They will have the right to call a halt if further probing could exacerbate the problem under investigation. Sensitivity to certain issues is predictable.