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Writing it down - writing it out - writing it up: researching our practice through action learning

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We dedicate this article to the late Professor John Morris, an appreciative inquirer into and true enabler of the writing of practice for each of us. What value is added for writer and reader by intentionally keeping personal learning part of public researching? When a practitioner attends conscientiously to 'the relationship with their research,' does it make a difference to their learning and researching? If it does, can this difference also make a difference to the reader …? This paper addresses these kinds of queries from the standpoint of 'scholarly practice,' the research undertaken by mature managers and professionals who account in text for initiating and sustaining change within their complex contexts of work. Through exploring a variety of learning frames, the authors identify the distinctive opportunities and challenges in practice-led enquiry, and raise implications critically for the researching professional as well as for their 'enablers' - the academic supervisors or fellow action-learning set members - who support and challenge the efforts of scholarly practitioners to make sense of and explicate their action. Revans's praxeology of action-based learning (systems alpha, beta and gamma) is extended as a research analogue for practice-led knowing. Ontological, methodological and epistemological perspectives are progressively deployed to examine critically the essentially reflexive nature of scholarly practice. The authors depict challenges in scholarly practice of establishing focus, incorporating others' thinking alongside one's own and asserting one's own voice. The paper concludes by warning of two ways in which enablers can unwittingly hijack the purpose of practice-led research.

Keywords: Action learning; Practice-led research; Revans's praxeology; Scholarly practice

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Manchester, UK 2: RPH Associates, Manchester, UK

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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