Action Inquiry/Reflection

There is nothing like trying to explaining something to start really understand it yourself! I was talking to a colleague the other day about the next Ultraversity cohort of researchers (the 4th) and how we help them get to grips with action research/action inquiry as the methodology at the heart of the Ultraversity pathway: Ba., Learning, Technology and Research. For me, two of the key components are developing the practice of analytical, and reflective thinking. As a part of the action research cycle these two skills are intertwined but different.

When analysing we are seeking to classify or categorise data with the hope of then being able to identify patterns and relationships to help us interpret and explain what we see. Once the data has yielded what it can, we can more easily synthesise different sources of information from other research and from our previous experiences to help understand a particular problem or issue that we are inquiring into. Analyses helps us see the ‘wood from the trees’, synthesis helps us see the trees in the forest!

Reflection is much more than just thinking about something. At its most powerful, when we reflect we begin to dig beneath the surface and the obvious to see things from different perspectives. This can lead to real insight through challenging the assumptions and beliefs that inform our ‘first thoughts’. These ‘multiple voices’ could be thought of like the contrasting views of football pundits who have just watched the same match but arrived at very different interpretations of it. It isn’t a question of right or wrong, but an understanding that the different viewpoints or ‘lenses’ through which we see the world are legitimate and are informed by our experiences, the purpose, and the stand point from which we view something.

On the one hand we have interpretation through a process of analysis, and on the other hand insight through a process of reflection. Both equally important aspects of action research, both requiring practice to develop the skills required. The above diagram implies linearity, but in reality the process is likely to be a fluid and intertwined one with analysis feeding reflection and reflection feeding analysis.

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