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The What and Why of Research in Action Research with Alfredo Ortiz Aragon (Part 1)
Episode 630th April 2023 • The Action Research Podcast • Adam Stieglitz & Joe Levitan
00:00:00 00:24:19

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 In this episode, Adam and Joe speak again with Adam’s close friend, professor, and mentor, Dr Alfredo Ortiz Aragón, an Action-Researcher and Associate Professor in the PhD Program at the Dreeben School of Education at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, and co-author of Action Research (Fifth Edition) with Ernie Stringer. 

This episode explores the “what?” and “why?” of research in action research. Adam, Joe and Alfredo all went into their PhDs already working as practitioners and the conversation steers first toward the specific impact of their PhDs on their practice. Adam [7:15] thinks about the process and impact of his literature review on his work and Alfredo [9:20] reflects on how his PhD process opened his eyes to new ways of thinking about practice. Listen to Alfredo elaborate on the PhD as a period of discovering “meaningful methodology” and “amazing theories” (e.g., soft systems theory) that would energize his work and speak directly to frustrations he was having with “linear ways of thinking” in the field. 

The conversation turns toward the ways theories bridge research and practice. Joe [15:45] picks up on research’s ability to help practitioners “draw the curtains back” and help us see things more clearly. But it’s not “a one-way street,” since the practitioner-researcher contributes back to developing theories. Alfredo [18:15] offers some tough love by challenging doctoral students who might use theories uncritically to validate their work rather than engage with them dynamically as tools in tension with other theories in their projects. He gives us an example of how the dynamic tension between soft system theory and complexity theory enriched his own work: “Those two theories don't like each other, but I needed both of them to be able to explain how the things that I was doing were helping or not.” Here, Joe [21:05] echoes Alfredo’s argument by drawing insights from an article he wrote “The Danger of a Single Theory” on his work with youth in a student voice project.

To close Part 1 of this conversation, Adam [22:35] asks Alfredo if he is still working with theories from his dissertation. Alfredo uses his work in The Community Health and Wellbeing Project and The Breastfeeding Women Project to bring back into focus the role of stakeholders in action research: “Whether or not you're bringing in a formal theoretical framework or not, we are treating people's experiences as a source of knowledge and evidence, and trying to get them involved in doing so. That is only happening because I learned something about action research.”

We have more to say, so join us in our next episode “Part 2 with Alfredo” where we dig into more of the “what and why” of research in action research.  

If you are interested in Joe’s article or  Aldredo’s (with Ernie Stringer) book on Action Research, the citations are below:  

Levitan, J. A. S. (2018). The danger of a single theory: Understanding students’ voices and social justice in the Peruvian Andes. Teachers College Record, 120(2). WorldCat.org.

Stringer, E. T., & Aragón, A. O. (2021). Action research (Fifth edition). Sage publications 

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