This essay is a reflection on the Action Research Podcast, Episode 19. Dr. Patricia Maguire discusses feminisms and action research. I pull out some themes and thoughts listeners may find useful.
I am hopeful this essay helps listeners of the podcast episode to understand the scope of the discussion with Dr. Maguire and listen to the episode in its entirety.
A Reflection from the Action Research Podcast Episode 19
When I began to listen to the Action Research Podcast with Patricia Maguire, right off, I recognized myself in Dr. Maguire’s story. As she explains it, she came to action research – or participatory action research – as did I, from involvement in the international development arena, with experience in international education, engaging questions and goals of empowerment. Perhaps many of the podcast listeners have similar stories – we’ve put ourselves in positions or professions to help make the world a better place, whatever that means to us. As we seek to do this work, we may recognize inherent contradictions in what we do, perhaps noticing – some of us for the first time – our relative privilege in connection with our work.
Dr. Maguire’s story resonated with me on a personal level, but also on a methodological one as she described her recognition of the disconnect between her work’s substantive goals (empowerment, honoring multiple knowledges, participation) and her methodological orientations and methods. Dr. Maguire asked early on in her career how researchers could make our research practices congruent with our epistemological commitments to equitable participation in the knowledge creation process? This question felt important to me. We cannot simply assert goals of creating space or amplifying voice unless we follow through in our methodologies. Dr. Maguire and the podcast hosts acknowledge that often this does not happen, with Dr. Maguire noting later in the conversation that teacher action research in particular is often “promoted as this atheoretical set of techniques to improve practice” without consideration of context, structures, and the multiple positionalities and identities of those involved.
These introductory themes came up multiple times throughout the podcast, but early on connected with another theme: reflexivity. I found Dr. Maguire’s focus on reflexivity useful, especially for new action researchers. She notes some simple questions to ask as we engage in reflexive praxis, including: who are you in relation to this work? She mentions that reflexivity comes out of the feminist movement, as the focus of reflexivity is to push researchers – and all involved in the process of knowledge creation – to keep asking these types of questions and keep considering our multiple identities and who we are in relation to our research and the people with whom we engage through and in research.
In the podcast’s lightening round, Dr. Maguire fielded a question about common mistakes in action research. It was a quick question, and a quick answer, but it seems worth noting. Dr. Maguire’s answer? Impatience.
She notes that all too often researchers want to quickly articulate and then solve a so-called problem. She says that university-based researchers often think they/we are not going to make mistakes but we must recognize that research, because it involves humans and human interactions, is “fraught with missteps and mistakes” because of the “cyclical nature of learning from doing.”
Of course, Dr. Maguire’s focus is on feminisms (she added the final “s”) and action research. I was excited when the hosts asked, can you separate feminisms from action research? Dr. Maguire’s quick and powerful answer came clearly: no. She argues that feminisms are “necessary and deeply ingrained”. While she is quick to assert that there is a lot of action research that is not informed by feminisms, she (and I, may I add) does not understand how a researcher can do research without understanding that people are informed by a multiplicity of positionalities, identities, and experiences of intersectional oppressions. This is the central takeaway from this podcast episode. Dr. Maguire says that if a researcher is not paying attention to who we are in relation to our research and how we are informed by our multiple identities, we will not achieve the transformational, liberatory promises of participatory action research. She says, “We already have the world where we’re not paying attention to multiple identities and oppression and justice. We want a new, transformational, liberatory world of creating knowledge.”
And that’s just it. We don’t want the same world we’ve been living with. Action researchers are trying to change it. We want a new world. Dr. Maguire’s thoughts help us understand how to take the intentional strides as researchers to move toward that new world.
To cite this work, please use the following reference:
Call-Cummings, M. (2021). A Reflection from the Action Research Podcast Episode 19. Retrieved from https://www.socialpublishersfoundation.org/knowledge_base/a-reflection-from-the-action-research-podcast-episode-19/