First Person Action Research

This is the first in a short series of blog posts about 1st person Action Research, theory and practice.

What is First Person Action Research
This is a type of Action Research or inquiry which is called “First Person” Action Research in a similar way to the “first person singular” part of speech used in grammar which is either “I” or “Me” depending on being the subject or object of a verb. But the “I” in First Person Action Research is both the subject and the object. First person plural would involve “we” and “us” so that’s the more standard participatory Action Research with groups of people who are involved in the research process as well.

Why choose 1st person Action Research
That’s enough explanation of the name, what’s the use of it? Usually to improve the researcher’s own practice, both as a practitioner in whatever field, and also as a researcher. The researcher may be pioneering a new type of practice, so there’s nobody else to share learning with, or they may be simply isolated by circumstance. So the only way forward is to set up cycles of action taking and data gathering, analysis and reflection, seeking validation from the researcher’s own results, sense of achievement and possibly future sharing of research if suitable contacts can be found.

Who might use First Person Action Inquiry
A classic example is the unmentored teacher, alone in a classroom, with a series of challenges from pupils, under pressure of work and deadlines with no time to discuss with other teachers, poor thing. Another scenario is the homeworker building websites and services, trying out this and that application, able to read and comment on what others are doing in a similar position, but working with a totally unique set of parameters in a specialist niche environment creating an experience in which collaboration almost impossible.

How is it done
Essentially the method is the same as any other action inquiry in that following some planning, a preliminary reconnaisance and literature search may be undertaken, then an action is chosen which is designed to bring about an improvement in the situation being researched, which in this case is the researcher’s own practice. Data is collected, including rich qualitative data, and then at the end of the designated period, the data is analysed and the entire process reflected upon. Any tentative conclusions or findings can then be fed back into the choosing of the next action for the following cycle. That’s the clean version, but it is accepted as given that the actual process in practice will become much messier, with some overlapping cycles and spirals of wheels within wheels. In the next post in this series I will introduce the use of the Action Log.

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