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Validity checks

Validity checks

The validity of an Action research inquiry is enhanced by keeping the proposition, action and review phases of the inquiry distinct, being so far as possible scrupulous in completing each of them before moving on to the next.

It is very important that each phase should have its full value, so that actions are not undermined or contaminated by premature reviewing; that reviewing is comprehensive and not diminished by premature closure; and that the proposition phase is not undermined by out of place reviewing.

In addition to this, an inquiry's validity is deepened to the extent to which each participant holds responsibility for a series of validity checks, confronting questions about the inquiry process. Here are a series of questions that I have found to be very effective.

Validity check list
Is there a balance between experience and reflection?
Constant vigilance is needed to keep the action phase and the reviewing phase in balance. The right proportion depends on the project, but it is important that one does not swamp the other. .
Is the work distorted by emotional distress?
The validitv of any work is most likely to be undermined by re-stimulation - caused by unresolved distress from the past.Typical ways in which unconscious projection can distort the process might include: picking situations or behaviour to pieces, so as to 'understand' them; pursuing trivial topics; treating people as objects; manipulation; breaches of confidentiality; and obstinately drawing conclusions that ignore others' wishes or findings.
Have we all internalized the procedure?
The value of an Action inquiry tends to depend on sharing the work of constantly questioning and reviewing equally between us. If some people are 'carrying' others, the enquiry is likely to have a lifeless quality, because some people are surreptitiously following the others. It's essential that everyone fully internalizes the whole procedure.
Is there enough variety in our approach?
Have we tried enough different activities or enough different explanations to account for what we are doing, and enough different ways of recording, recalling or collating our methods of doing it. Is there enough variety in our approach?
Has there been enough chaos?
The project and the inquiry will be greatly influenced by the extent to which imagination, creativity, exploration and innovation are pushed to their limits. In my experience, this means tolerating occasional episodes of chaos, confusion and ambiguity. If this disorder is shut off due to past distress, creativity will be truncated,because new discoveries often lie on the other side of chaos.
What are we avoiding?
New paradigm methods of inquiry put every idea and process to the test of experience. But 'my experience' risks inviting 'my history' to participate. As a group we are likely to ignore information that contradicts our pet assumptions. It is useful to challenge the inquiry process by playing devil's advocate and taking a detached view.
Are we beginning to make sense or reach a conclusion?
There is a danger that once we reach the final stage of making sense of what has been done, our conclusions may be too painful to accept or may point to action none dares take. The devil's advocate approach is once again useful to ensure that we are moving toward simplicity, understanding and effectiveness, not simply to a palatable result.
Can the procedure be repeated or continued?
If the project makes public statements about what should or should not be done, they need to be well documented for future use.

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This document was last modified on 2005-10-07 19:46:18.