Friday, October 22, 2004

Action research methodology in designing for active learning

I am continuing with the notion of action research and action learning. I have found the characteristics of educational design and the work of an educational designer (ED) to be similar to the action research process. You take a small task, you workshop it, you devise methods to support the task, you design for that task, you evaluate then make improvements - all in collaboration with others such as the content expert/academics, multimedia developers, etc.

So too with a problem, for example, designing an online unit to be delivered to local Australian students as well as students based in Singapore. One issue that may arise might be that the student group is mainly mature age students who have not studied in a long while, nor used computers to a great extent. So again, the ED refines the problem - breaking it down into its components for consideration; review materials to assist in getting to know that problem; devise methods to approach the problem; discuss the problem with others; and so on...!

Action research and action learning are similar too. In a big picture too, educational design is not just about developing materials then closing the door. In the convoluted dynamic process the ED establishes and builds on their relationship with others like the academic, the librarian, the graphic artist, etc. A network of skills, experience and learning come together and are strengthened over time (mostly over many development cycles too). The ED also aims to influence others like the academic - the lecturer or tutor - to consider online and multimedia approaches learning and teaching approaches. The ED hopes to change another's way of thinking and doing - for the better!

This aligns with the bigger picture outcomes of action research and action learning - to change a situation, to resolve wider issues, to create positive change and to promote ownership through participation, sharing and responsibility.

I have included a link (click on the post title) to an article I co-wrote with Dr Umesh Sharma, Education Faculty at Monash, where we attempted to document the action research/action learning processes we took to develop his unit online. Our aim was to try to capture those intangible elements that often get lost once the word 'product' is used!

We would very much welcome your comments, criticisms and questions relating to the use of action research and our paper. Cheers!