Archive for March, 2011


Action Research Methods: The Pro Forma

1.     What is a pro forma?

A term applied to practices or documents that are done as a pure formality, perfunctory, or seek to satisfy the minimum requirements or to conform to a convention or doctrine. It has different meanings in different fields. (Wikipedia)

Within the context of my research, I have defined a pro forma as a form or document designed by myself to be unilaterally applied as a method for analysing data.  Whilst this pro forma document could be defined and or identified as a questionnaire, I feel that the intention and application of these self-constructed pro formats differ greatly from a questionnaire both in form and intention.

2.     What method are you utilising this pro forma?

This pro forma can be applied under the guise of any method, but I have been primarily analysing the collected data to date, within the context of Action Research.

3.     What is the intended outcome of this pro forma?

The primary use of this pro forma has been to analyse the data generated by the three aural immersive installations.  I have chosen to triangulate three different methods: Self Reflection/Action Research, Expert Readers/Focus Groups/Critical Friends/And Literature/Contextual review. I will break down my answers below in three different sections: What is Action Research, Why am I using the Whitehead/McNiff method, and how does the pro forma better enable me to assess my data?

1.     What is Action Research?

It is a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a “community of practice” to improve the way they address issues and solve problems. Action research is done simply by action, hence the name. Action research can also be undertaken by larger organizations or institutions, assisted or guided by professional researchers, with the aim of improving their strategies, practices, and knowledge of the environments within which they practice. As designers and stakeholders, researchers work with others to propose a new course of action to help their community improve its work practices (Centre for Collaborative Action Research). Kurt Lewin, then a professor at MIT, first coined the term “action research” in about 1944. In his 1946 paper “Action Research and Minority Problems” he described action research as “a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action and research leading to social action” that uses “a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of a circle of planning, action, and fact-finding about the result of the action (Wikipedia)

2.     Why have I chosen to utilise the Whitehead/McNiff method?

I have chosen to utilise Action Research as its been defined by Jack Whitehead and Jean McNiff.  In this method, the idea of the researcher as spectator is subverted by switching the focus from that of the removed, observant researcher to that of practitioner researcher. In this role the researcher is examining their own practice either within a solo capacity or within the company of other practitioners examining their practices within the collective context.  In this new role, the researcher explores every aspect of their practice, and poses questions or determines theories based on actual evidence and actions generated by their own practice.

This form of action research is germane to my research because the aural/visual practice is what generated all the data and whilst researching various methods and methodologies I was unable to find another method, which placed the focus on the practitioner and the practice so centrally.

3.     How does the pro-forma better allow me to assess my data?

The implementation of this pro-forma has been essential to data analysis.  Foremost the creation of this form allows me to have an organised and systematic approach to analysing the collected data.  Additionally, by creating and designing this form, I am identifying a method individual to my own practice, which can be applied under the ethos of other methods to analysing data produced by all facets of this research. This streamlined approach to analysis will be validated by other methods.

4      What makes this method successful?

Thus far this method has been successful by providing me with a consistent and organised framework for analysis.

5.     What makes this method unsuccessful?

Drawing upon what I wrote above, in relation to action research its greatest issue remains the nature of validation and how to create secondary forms of validation to ensure that the data has been considered with rigour.

6.  How would you change this method in the future?

Generally speaking I wouldn’t change the format or the structure of this method.  It’s simple both in execution and use.  In order to ensure that the validation process has been rigorous, I aim to use the pro forma in a tired system, beginning with simple questions, gradually asking more pointed and focused questions to ensure validation.  By using these documents to create an organised system I will be able to elucidate and map out the data and it’s contribution to new knowledge.