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Publication - Dr Patricia Gaya

    Initiating Action Research: A Review of the Challenges and Paradoxes of Opening Communicative Space


    Wicks, PG & Reason, P, 2009, ‘Initiating Action Research: A Review of the Challenges and Paradoxes of Opening Communicative Space’. Action Research, vol 7(3)., pp. 243 - 262


    The success or failure of an action research venture often depends on what happens at the beginning of the inquiry process: in the way access is established, and on how participants and co-researchers are engaged early on. ‘Opening communicative space’ is important because, however we base our theory and practice of action research, the first steps are fateful. We draw on Habermas’s theorizing of the boundary-crises between system and lifeworld to explore the theory behind the idea of communicative space. We attempt to bring these abstract concepts to life, and to illustrate key aspects of action research practice through a review of some of the key challenges, opportunities, and paradoxes which emerge in the early stages of action research projects. Drawing on the literature and on exemplars, we show how the process of opening communicative space can be mapped onto a theory of group development that suggests a progression through phases of inclusion, control, and intimacy. Furthermore, we review an example of third-person action research to illustrate some of the issues raised by the need for both external and internal validation. We conclude that the practices of opening communicative space are necessarily paradoxical, and put forward a list of paradoxes with which facilitators and initiators of action research may need to engage in the start-up phases of their work.

    Full details in the University publications repository