The purpose of this project is to expose a new form of knowledge inquiry and dissemination through the use of podcasting. Dr. Joe Levitan and Adam Stieglitz created The Action Research Podcast as an attempt to push back on the standard approach to accessing meaningful knowledge, specifically in the academic realm. As co-hosts, Adam and Joe feel it is important to create a platform for renowned scholars to share their lived experiences with a wide audience through dialogue and conversation. Further, The Action Research Podcast is intended to serve as a useful resource for faculty, students, budding scholars, and/or practitioners to help understand the complexities of action research and see if and how action research can be a useful methodology within their own endeavors. The Action Research Podcast is intended to serve as a model for other podcasts with an educational theme. Shikha Diwakar and Vanessa Gold make up the production team on The Action Research Podcast and are passionate about sharing their process with others who might be interested in creating a similar podcast.
The Action Research Podcast is a way to bring academic endeavors, particularly research initiatives, to life. Each episode offers rich dialogical engagement between co-hosts Adam and Joe and renowned action researchers from the field. Topics discussed range from deconstructing reflexivity to democratizing education to acting to learn and learning to act. Ultimately, the Action Research Podcast is meant to be an engaging resource for scholars, students, and practitioners alike.
Welcome to the Action Research Podcast: An inside look into how to make Action Research more accessible
Action Research, in all of its varieties, is a paradigm for inquiry and practice to make important contributions to democratizing knowledge, building more just communities, and engaging in social change processes for a more verdant world. However, one of the challenges Action Research faces as a field is that it can, at times, be difficult to access for budding researchers and practitioners. That’s where we come in—Welcome to the Action Research Podcast (AR Pod), a podcast dedicated solely to Action Research. The purpose of the Action Research Podcast is to offer unique and valuable insights for the field through accessible and engaging conversations about the “what” “why” and “how” of Action Research. The AR Pod is driven by a team of four: Adam Stieglitz and Joe Levitan are co-hosts; Shikha Diwakar and Vanessa Gold make up the AR Pod production team. Perhaps the richest component of the AR Pod has been the guests who share their deep knowledge, experience, and stories with us and our listeners. We have discussed important components of Action Research, like reflexivity, systemic action research, photovoice, participatory action research, critical reflection, acting to learn, and learning to act, as well as talking about general principles of the AR (Action Research) paradigm. Although the AR Pod was created with students, practitioners, faculty, and budding scholars as our intended audience, it is truly for anybody interested in action research or social change.
In this article, we tell the story of how the podcast came to be and share perspectives from each member of the team about their purpose, experience, and takeaways. We believe podcasting can serve as a meaningful platform to share knowledge and information with the scholarly community, practitioner realms, and general public in all areas of study – not solely action research. Therefore, we also want to take this opportunity to inform others about what goes into creating and managing an educational podcast. So, in the third part of this article we talk about what goes on behind the scenes and how we produce each episode.
The Podcast’s Inception
Just like any good action research project, the Action Research Podcast is a collaborative effort that emerged organically with the purpose of addressing a challenge in the field. The idea was spawned in the Peruvian Andes, where Adam and Joe were hiking from the Chincheros Inca ruins down to Urquillos. At the time, Adam was a third year PhD student preparing to collect data for his dissertation on community resident perspectives in international service learning; Joe, already an assistant professor at McGill University, was advancing his research agenda on creating locally relevant, culturally grounded, curriculum with the Pallata Community Education Center. Despite having similar backgrounds – a combined twenty years of experience living in the Sacred Valley of Peru and being directors and co-founders of distinct social change organizations in the region– somehow Adam and Joe had not previously met. While hiking, Adam voiced concern to Joe about some of the challenges he was facing as a doctoral student. Primarily, he was frustrated with the inefficient process of browsing the university library, google scholar, and other search engines in search of specific information to frame his study. It felt like searching for a needle in a haystack – who has time for that as a doctoral student? Even worse, it felt like all of those hours often concluded with little or nothing to show. Joe agreed that we would all be better off with a more efficient mechanism to access or disseminate knowledge and information, especially in consideration of modern technology and an exponentially growing pool of data. Within months, The AR Pod was created.
The AR Pod Team
The AR Pod would not exist without the valuable input, insights, and contribution from each member of our team. The following section offers excerpts from the team about how we got involved, our roles and responsibilities, what we have learned, and our goals for the podcast.
I am a doctoral candidate in the Educational leadership, evaluation, and organization development program in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville. I am also co-founder and director of the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development, a social change organization whose mission is “to harness collective intelligence to support community led development in the highlands of Peru.” Additionally, and perhaps most relevant, I am an avid podcast listener. I was drawn to podcasts because it was such an easy, efficient, and streamlined way to get the information I was looking for – whether related to news, politics, sports, history, or even just a quirky story to fall asleep to. Little did I know then I would soon be hosting my own. While it is new to be on the dissemination side of podcasts, I have still learned a lot from my experience. Afterall, I get to speak directly with some of the most renowned action researchers in the field. It forces me to read their articles closely and come up with pointed questions that I think are not only relevant to our listeners, but also my own research. For example, in Episode 6 Dr. Lisa Starr was talking about reflexivity. It just so happened I was writing an introduction chapter at the time and was stuck on a section about reflexivity. I asked Lisa about it on the podcast, and she steered me towards a set of questions to help guide my reflexive process. That evening I was able to go back to my writing and easily wrap up that section. My hope is that was not only helpful for me, but for our listeners as well!
I have various goals for The AR Pod. First, I hope it becomes a well-established and accepted form of knowledge dissemination that contributes to the larger discussion and advancement of action research. I hope it serves as a resource for students and/or practitioners who are wondering if action research is for them. Further, I hope faculty who teach research methods view the podcast as a resource to share with their students to offer a wider understanding of action research. In the long term, I hope The AR Pod gets acknowledged by major action research associations and is further promoted through conferences and publications. Who knows, perhaps one day we will even get invited to a conference to facilitate a live panel recording with the most renowned action researchers in the world.
I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University. For my doctoral research, I came to Tiohtià:ke (Montreal) in 2019 from India, so I miss the sun, as well as the Indian food. Being a researcher and teacher in the education sector for more than a decade now, I still identify myself as an emerging scholar. Also, I am a dedicated listener of the podcast (a modern form of radio but pre-recorded), thanks to my mom! She used to play the radio while doing household chores. Listening to people’s stories on the radio made me wonder why I couldn’t have chapters up there from my science book, especially. I remember asking my mom once why I cannot just sit and listen to my lessons as I listen to these people sharing stories on the radio? To which my mom responded, “You’ll do that yourself when you grow-up….” I never knew back then that I would be a part of the team running a podcast and bringing authors to discuss their publications and ideas.
As a part of the podcast production team, I have learned a lot about community-based research. My own research is situated in the community I belong to. My research focusses on understanding the role of Dalit women’s identities and the impact of the role on their life experiences. Even though I am a member of the Dalit community, I still struggle with the question of who I am as a researcher in this community. How do my roles shift from member to researcher? Every time I hear our guest speakers talk with Adam and Joe, I get a new perspective to see myself as a researcher. Even if I am an insider to a community because of my identity, I am not completely an insider to another person’s life experiences and perspectives and that is what I have learned from working on this podcast. This is something I am certain that I would have never learned from any published paper. As a PhD student, most of my ability to acquire knowledge is limited to published chapters, articles, books or other written forms of knowledge in which we read clear and concise methodology sections that make it seem like every study went very smoothly, and then we read polished findings where there is little ambiguity discussed. So, I read the “clean” methods and the “clean” outcome but what about the important messy parts of the process? I want to learn about the challenges that practitioners and researchers face in that process. As PhD students we strive for perfection from the very beginning of our studies because that is what we are reading—the methodology should be perfect from the beginning–but that is not true. How do I know this? From my experience with this podcast where I see guest speakers sharing their challenges with methodology in the field, and their process of reflection, which gives me a sense of relief that we can learn from research that is not totally perfect, and that we get better as we practice. That is one of my goals for the podcast, to keep reflecting on some of the challenges grounded in methodology for emerging scholars. To me, the podcast is a visionary way to disseminate knowledge.
I finished my B.Ed. in 2013 and worked as a teacher internationally for four years before going back to school. I started out pursuing an MA in Educational Leadership at McGill – that’s where I first met Joe – my current PhD co-supervisor. My MA project involved documenting an educational reform being piloted in Quebec and it was so compelling that I decided to fast track this work to a PhD. I am a second-year doctoral student in Educational and Organizational Change and Leadership in secondary schools. Despite my years in academia, I still feel pretty new. Part of my current process is narrowing the scope of several intersecting interests including school change initiatives, interpersonal dynamics, educational leadership, student voice, and action research. Much like action research, my trajectory continues to be in an iterative spiral of experience, reflection, and action. Working on this podcast has helped me understand how to approach framing my positionality as well as situating my work in action research. I learn something new every time I hear about the diverse personal experiences, paths, perspectives, and contextual applications of, this methodology. It took a couple of episodes for me to realize I that didn’t have to frantically take notes while recording – I hear the discussion at least 10 more times in the production phase of each episode. Some big takeaways for me are that anyone can do Action Research, that Action Research happens everywhere and all the time, and that it’s a little different for everybody. The podcast addresses a much-needed outlet for accessible, clear, and academically informed conversations that inherently support communities of action research and beyond. As such, one of the things I’d really like to see on the podcast is talking to people in the general public spearheading ‘accidental’ action research projects in their communities. I imagine Adam and Joe listening to the genesis and evolution of a project and picking out aspects that align (or don’t align) with Action Research for our listeners. I think this might help make concepts like reflexivity, praxis, and epistemology less nebulous to a wider audience. It would also demonstrate possible applications and contexts for the methodology while forging an alternative line of communication for researchers, practitioners, and communities.
Action Research has been a way for me to bridge worlds. Before becoming a professor, I worked for 7 years with communities in the Peruvian Andes and taught in public schools in Baltimore, MD and the Bronx, NY. I continue to work with rural communities in the Peruvian Andes and I make sure that my research supports the initiatives we are working on. So, some of my main identities are as a practitioner, educator, and facilitator. In both a practitioner and researcher role, I have focused on working towards social justice to ensure that students are able to live a good life of meaning and value. To me, this means learning how “good”, “meaning” and “value” are understood and lived by the individuals and communities who I work with—something that I also am iteratively trying to figure out! I got into academia to try to answer these difficult questions: “What is a good life?”, “How can someone learn what a good life is and how to live a good life?” and “How might schools/educational spaces support this kind of learning—especially when opportunities, healthy environments, and safe spaces have been denied to many?” While I knew that there were not going to be any definitive answers, learning about Action Research allowed me to find ways to engage in processes to live and address these questions in a collaborative way that can inform educational practice and allow for greater self-determination and positive change in schooling. I have learned a lot of lessons in this work, which is how I try to frame my research agenda as a scholar. However, one of the challenges of doing this kind of work is that writing up research for scholarly publication does not always allow for the kind of sharing that can be most valuable for people interested in similar issues. As a co-host of the Action Research Podcast, I have had the great privilege of working with an awesome team and speaking with experts who have related areas of interest and/or work experience. It is very rewarding to share those experiences in a way that can be accessed by anyone. So, my goals for the AR Pod are to continue to speak about the messy and tricky issues of doing work for social good and speaking with people who have lived lives working to address injustice and facilitate positive change–and share their learning with others.
Behind the scenes: What goes into making a podcast?
Producing the AR Pod is an iterative process of recording, giving feedback, and editing. We put a lot of thought into editing our candid conversations. Special focus is given to understanding the flow of the episode for our listeners. This includes identifying intuitive transitions, breaking up the discussion into digestible segments, and adding narrations (for segues or to summarize extended content). The editing process is fun and challenging for our team. In almost every episode, we experiment with new formats, structure, and music—like our lightning round of Q&A. Editing is particularly challenging when we have to cut these rich conversations from two hours to thirty minutes. In fact, it pretty much never happens. It’s so hard to choose what to keep! Each episode goes through 4 stages: Preparation, Recording, Production, and Post-Production.
Preparation (Brainstorming Phase)
- Recruit and research interviewee.
- Read interviewee publications and develop interview questions.
- Weekly check-in.
Recording (Conversation for Action Phase).
- Sound check (See Figure 2; Slide #2).
- Introductions, explanation of structure/process, and overview of potential talking points.
- Two recordings made to have a backup and quality check.
- Adam and Joe lead semi-structured conversation with interviewee.
- Shikha and Vanessa listen for sound problems and interrupt for re-recording.
- We all text throughout the recording for problem solving and conversation direction.
- Post recording debrief and brainstorm for creative possibilities.
Production: Transcription, editing and sound mixing, polishing (‘The magic happens here’ Phase)
- Recording is uploaded to a shared drive and transcribed.
- AR Pod Team makes edits on the transcription document (i.e. content to remove/rearrange, where to cut long episodes, edits to narrator script, etc.) (See Figure 3; Slide #3).
- Vanessa writes narrator script (intro/outro/segues) (See Figure 4; Slide #4).
- Shikha does a first cut on the audio file using the suggested edits and uploads it (See Figure 5; Slide #5).
- Vanessa uses Shikha’s upload to do a second cut on GarageBand (sound mixing; long pauses, ums, stutters, etc. removed; narration/music is recorded and added) (See Figure 6; Slide #6).
- The team listens/gives feedback, if needed, Vanessa does another pass.
- Shikha and Joe prepare episode summaries.
- Episode is sent to interviewee for final cut approval before publishing.
Post-Production (Beat the drum Phase)
- After final approval, Shikha publishes the episode using captivate.fm.
- Our team then publicizes the new episode on twitter and other platforms.
- Follow-up with listeners’ questions.
Once we are done with an episode it’s always great to get feedback from listeners. Other AR folks have reached out to us via twitter, email, and even LinkedIn. We want to make sure that this podcast speaks about the issues that matter most, so we try to build in the topics that people ask about. It takes some time to get to each topic (as production takes about 2 weeks and we usually have a lineup of episodes ready to go out before we start a new one), but we will make sure to get to every question.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the Action Research podcast, and that it has sparked an interest in your own work and ideas for working on social change, democratizing knowledge, and/or engaging in important research. Tune in to our episodes if you found this interesting! You can find our podcast on most major providers and a link to the home page is below. Please get in touch with us if you have comments or questions! You can find us on Twitter @TheAR_Pod or via email at ActionResearchPod@gmail.com.
To cite this work, please use the following reference:
Stieglitz, A., Gold, V., Diwakar, S., & Levitan, J. (2021, March 5). Welcome to The Action Research Podcast. Social Publishers Foundation. https://www.socialpublishersfoundation.org/knowledge_base/welcome-to-the-action-research-podcast/