• From practice to theory and back again •
What do you do when you become aware of a situation in your literacy work that is puzzling or problematic? Perhaps you talk about the situation with a colleague, read a book or article about it, or use a trial and error approach to address the problem. A research in practice project starts with the same sorts of puzzling situations but is an opportunity to investigate a situation in more systematic ways.
Through the Research in Practice in Adult Literacy (RiPAL) Network, eight literacy researchers in practice from across Alberta investigated a range of puzzling questions. During an on-line course in 2000, we clarified our questions and developed research proposals. Then, over several months in 2001, we conducted research, using various methods to gather and analyse information. We started to find some answers but also discovered more questions, which fuelled lively discussion when we met in inquiry groups. Improving our practice was a main reason for us to do research, but we found personal benefits to engaging in research as well.
The research in practice process holds challenges as well as benefits, however. Perceptions of research and who “gets to do it,” confidence and expectations of self, lack of time, and writing up the research are among the challenges we faced and learned from.
As a member of the RiPAL Network, Phyllis Steeves investigated what practitioners can do within a program environment to support change. In this report, Phyllis shares her learnings about her question and about the research process.
Mary Norton, Facilitator
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