Clearly, the argument that AR theorists have built up a strawman characterisation of a fictional empirical method in order to legitimise the uniqueness of the AR approach must be quickly acknowledged and set aside if a more productive discussion is to emerge. For example, you write, “Researchers’ values are downplayed, ignored and should not matter” (Aman, 2017), yet the theme of our Module 5 was on how social scientists attempt to locate, address and clarify in relation to their research, recognising that value neutrality is “dubious” (Balch, 2006). And then, we just spent ten weeks in Module 7 discussing research design, a period in which we understood that “Research is the art of the feasible” (Blaxter, Hughes, & Tight, 2006, p. 157), a sentiment that captures the lack of orderliness inherent in research protocol. And so on.
Rather, I’d like to know your thoughts on the notion of knowledge being provisional, and how any sense of unstableness in knowledge can impact on personal positionality, i.e. first-person practice (McNiff, 2014), and potential second-person dialogue within your organisation. My own sense is that knowledge, per se, cannot be provisional nor can it be a process. Coghlan and Brannick (2014) accurately use the example of checking if it is raining to demonstrate the need for verification, as justification is the step that distinguishes a potential (or opinion, or idea) from knowledge. In other words, knowledge is instantaneous but predicated on the processes leading up to the conversion from ‘maybe’ to ‘true’. For a ‘fact’ to gain the label of ‘knowledge’ requires placing many candidates into a limbo of potentiality. Now, and here’s the rub, many people do not seem able to distinguish their opinions from actual verifiable knowledge. (Post-truth and Trumpism aside), Holland (2008), arguing from neuroscience, claims that “comprehending something automatically includes belief” (p. 313). The next step in the process is to “partially disbelieve” (p. 312), that is, to relegate the status of the utterance to a potential fact. Yet, cognitive biases such as confirmation bias and motivated reasoning (Kahan, 2013) operate formatively at the adaptive unconscious level (Wilson, 2002), influencing and restricting our abilities to “partially disbelieve”.
At the organisational level in second-person dialogue (McNiff, 2014), how will you (or will you) contend with various senses of knowledge, that some colleagues may invoke the process aspect of knowledge (perhaps subconsciously) while others may only accept knowledge presented after justification?
Amann, W. (2017, January 21). RE: Week 1 Forum [Online discussion post]. Retrieved from https://my.ohecampus.com/lens/home?locale=en_us#
Balch, S. H. (2006). The dubious value of value neutrality. Academic Questions, 19(4), 44–48. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12129-006-1035-3
Blaxter, L., Hughes, C., & Tight, M. (2006). How to Research (3rd ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Coghlan, D., & Brannick, T. (2014). Doing action research in your own organization (4th ed.). London: Sage Publications.
Holland, N. N. (2008). Spider-Man? Sure! The neuroscience of suspending disbelief. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 33(4), 312–320. http://doi.org/10.1179/174327908X392870
Kahan, D. M. (2013). Ideology, motivated reasoning, and cognitive reflection. Judgment and Decision Making, 8(4), 407–424. http://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2182588
McNiff, J. (2014). Writing and doing action research. London: Sage Publications.
Wilson, T. D. (2002). Strangers to ourselves: discovering the adaptive unconscious. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.