The paper seems too long. I believe it might be shortened without any harm to the whole. After a brief introduction to my background I make suggestions to strengthen the paper further if so desired. I believe my background is important to understand my comments. As always my suggestions are not compulsory. On the whole the paper is well researched, written and the author has learnt much and produced a very useful knowledge for stakeholders in her project.
I spent many years as an advisor in curriculum and staff development in vocational education and training in the FE/HE sectors of public education and in corporate education aimed at enhancing human performance in organisations in several developing countries. I used both educational technology and action research approaches to improve the quality of education and training. In educational technology the focus is on the improvement of practice using educational technology remaining oblivious of the influences of the practitioners and contexts. Action research is self-study to improve practice and practitioner to generate professional knowledge as an integrated process. In the early days I used action research intuitively without naming and framing it. For instance, in my MPhil thesis (Punia 1992) I used action research to institutionalise school-based curriculum development as a dialectical process between the planned and the implemented curriculum as collaborative learning by teachers, management, advisor and the ministry to close the gap between the planned and the operational curriculum. It would appear Mary has done a similar action research. She is testing propositional knowledge from the literature in practice to assess its suitability to promote collaboration amongst stakeholders in a particular context. She has done it elegantly and produced useful practical knowledge for stakeholders. She rightly recommends several other uses of her methodology to assess the value of her methodology to achieve the particular task.
In my EdD thesis (Punia 2004) I used living educational theory form of action research. Action research generally answers the question, â€how do I improve what I am doingâ€™ and produces shared professional knowledge. It took me long time to understand that in living educational theory form of action research emphasis is on why do I improve what I am doing. It is not the study of the task; it is the study of the (I)/ researcher who is exploring his/her values embedded in his/her actions. That is what I did in my Ed Thesis (Punia 2004). I explored the nature of my I/self embedded in my professional work stretched over 40 years. I discovered that my influences on others came from my technical competence and personal character based on values derived from spirituality. It means that how and why are equally important questions. Some of my colleagues might argue that â€whyâ€™ is more important than â€howâ€™.
How questions deal with our technical competence and why questions deal with our being /invisible part of us often hidden in our actions. Living educational theory form of action research aims to make it explicit. It is the study of our living standards of judgment, which are made of very complex mix of our values, interests, wants and technical know-how. Hence, I was looking more for Mary, the researcher, than her work in this paper. In the light of my experience this paper is a form of action research usually researchers might use to test their propositional knowledge in practice.
I suggest that she expands the abstract by including the general context in it. The abstract is the most important part of a paper. In a living educational theory form of action research abstract, claims to knowledge and standards of professional judgement are most important.
Under the context of the study and your own context introduce yourself, your values and interests, changes due to this experience and future aspirations.
Under Knowledge, Technology and Knowledge Society you mention knowledge-based-aid. That is what action research aims to do. It is a new and a pleasant change in the policy of aid agencies. Implementation of which demands a large-scale dissemination of action research and it is a very difficult task indeed. Just imagine the task of preparing your audience to initiate and conduct their own action research as you did in this paper. Here I would introduce action research to the readers and aid agency.
In research method there is no need to criticise the linear approach. We need that approach to validate practical experience. You chose to use action research methodology as it shares your and your employerâ€™s values. I understood your epistemology clearly when you say knowledge is personal interpretations of individuals. I did not understand your ontology. How do you see your self in relation to other selves?
Under action research living theory you rightly mention the main values and features of this form of action research. You say your work is to improve practice through influence, not through imposition. I say you were training and it was not imposition. It is for the audience to learn from your work what they need. However, some people may argue that you were imposing your and your employersâ€™ framework on these people. It is very difficult to assess our influence on others unless they report it to you.
You have followed your action research methodology very well. Under the heading reflections on my research are your claim to knowledge. Bring value for mutual learning under this heading as well.
Under validity of my research inquiry you do not mention your standards of judgement and the responses from social validity.
I would change the heading conclusion into further action. In living educational theory form of action research there are no conclusions.
Mary has produced an excellent piece of work, which deserve publication. This paper has provided me with a stimulus to think deeply on action research and my professional work. I have learnt much from this paper. I hope my comments might provide a stimulus to think differently. All publications should aim to do it.
Last but not least, it is important to be conscious of the readers. This paper seems to be addressed to the academics using academic language. I remain more of a practitioner than an academic. I do not criticise any methodology of teaching and learning. All of them have value in different contexts. As professionals we exercise professional judgement to chose the right methodology to fit contextual needs.
Many thanks to Mary for letting me read her paper and I wish her best of luck in her most worthwhile work in international education.
- Punia R S (2004), My CV is My Curriculum: The Making of an International Educator with Spiritual values. Ed Thesis, The University of Bath.
- Punia R S (1992), Teachersâ€™ Planning: Its use in curriculum & staff development. MPhil Dissertation, The University of Bath
- Punia R S (1978), Educational Technology in Curriculum Development: A conceptual map for its integration in curriculum and staff development, MA Education Dissertation, The University of Lancaster.
- Whitehead J & McNiff J (2006), Action Research Living Theory. London: Sage Publications.