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Action research as a methodology that brings together value-based and evidence based approaches
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Action research as a methodology that brings together value-based and evidence based approaches

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The leader of the TIHR Trauma Stream of work, Dr Milena Stateva recently presented an argument on the potential of action research to bring together evidence-based and value-based approaches to......

The leader of the TIHR Trauma Stream of work, Dr Milena Stateva recently presented an argument on the potential of action research to bring together evidence-based and value-based approaches to practice enhancement and policy making.

She was one of the key speakers at the Qualitative Research for Policy Making 2012 Conference, organised by ISCTE-IUL (Portugal) and Merlien Institute in May 2012. This highly interactive, cross-disciplinary conference brought together top policy researchers and practitioners to discuss best practices for delivering and interpreting qualitative research for policy making.

Milena’s presentation explores the tensions and possible links between value-based and evidence-based research and evaluation approaches, discusses the relevance of action research to policy making and evaluates the ability of action research to bring together these two perspectives through the case study of the Nottinghamshire County Council Fostering Futures Therapeutic Fostering Service.

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  • 1. The Tavistock Institute of Human RelationsAction research as a methodology that brings together value-based and evidence based approachesDr. Milena StatevaLisbonMay 2012
  • 2. This presentation• Exploring the tensions and possible links between value- based and evidence-based research and evaluation approaches;• Discussing the relevance of action research to policy making;• Evaluating the ability of action research to bring together these two perspectives through a case study.
  • 3. The diversity in value relevancies in contemporary research• Value-neutral or value-laden research (Hammersley, 2008).• Value-based medicine: overlooking genuine value conflicts and their importance, undermining the value of value and leaving the practitioner with a reduced ability to discern and negotiate conflicts of value (see Fulford, 2006; Gascoigne, 2008; Cox, Campbell and Fullford, 2007).• Evaluation research: a vacuum in judging the value of available options deriving from the inadequacy of „rational‟ procedures to support judgments of the value of policies, programs, or the agencies responsible for them (Julnes, 2010).
  • 4. What is action research?• Action research emerged as a distinctive mode of social science theory and practice in the times of re- building the Post-World War II world (see Lewin, 1946) and has continuily shown its relevance to bringing change whilst studying this change as it unfolds – a process of co-creation with the research participants.• It can be viewed as ‘practical science’ with a distinctive iterative cycle of problem identification, diagnosis, intervention, evaluation and problem re-statement (Checkland, 1991) while offering the potential for citizen participation policy in the construction of knowledge (Stringer, 1999).
  • 5. The value base of action researchAction research ’cannot but be a political activity, [because] professional status, despite the claims often made for it, does not place the practitioner beyond the realm of values’ (Miller, 1993:3).Values, logics and practice are mutually influencing hence they are deeply linked with issues of ontology, epistemology, methodology and intent - a dynamic, self- recreating constellation of forms that are also influenced by context (McNiff and Whitehead, 2011:10).
  • 6. The evidence base of action researchAction research allows for bringing together qualitative and quantiative methodologies which is a leading trend today.How empirical data is used to validate and defend an interpretation: quantitative and qualitative methodologies form a continuum rather than standing in opposition.Bringing them together: developing a picture of an empirical world, asking questions and turning them into researchable problems, finding the best means of doing so, developing and using concepts, and serving policy ends and ‘user’ interests (Alasuutari, Bickman and Brannen, 2008).
  • 7. Action research and policy making• Action research within policy making has a long tradition, in particular for addressing needs and complex problems as it is about using research to influence and directly change policy and practice (see DoH, 2001).• It is a style of research rather than a specific method with three key elements: its participatory character; its democratic impulse; and its simultaneous contribution to social science and social change (Meyer, 2000).
  • 8. TIHR Trauma Stream of work• The stream aims to provide support to organisations and systems working with or going through traumatic experiences as well as those wanting to build their resilience.• The support takes the form of training, multi-disciplinary research-based consultancy and consultancy-based research to feed into theory development as a means for better understanding and policy enhancement.• The objective is to contribute to efforts to a) prevent traumatic events and trauma (building resilience); and b) improve interventions in the process of a traumatic event/s taking place as well as in its aftermath (including crisis intervention, long-term and short-term consequences).
  • 9. Case study: evaluative action research of the Nottinghamshire County Council Fostering Futures Therapeutic Service• To examine the significance of the background, experience and specialist knowledge of the foster carers;• To examine the effectiveness of the team’s therapeutic foundation and the particular effect of various techniques;• To provide a longitudinal view of the impact of the fostering service on the children it cares for;• To develop Fostering Futures’ internal capacities by embedding within its structures and processes a sustainable research component;• To enable staff and users to influence practice and policy.
  • 10. Case study: evaluative action research of the Nottinghamshire County Council Fostering Futures Therapeutic Service Research support team/originators of the studyIan Tabberer, Team manager, Fostering Futures TF ServiceDr Mannie Sher, TIHR Principal Researcher/ConsultantDr Milena Stateva, TIHR Senior Researcher/ConsultantLaura Stock, TIHR Researcher/Consultant
  • 11. Case study: evaluative action research of the Nottinghamshire County Council Fostering Futures Therapeutic Service• Applying Theory of Change and its principles of using multiple data sources to triangulate data capturing the processes and mechanisms through which goals are (not) met.• Grounding the research in the carers’ and young people’s voices and experiences: the goal is to open a space in which their perspective matters and is taken into account.• Employing an action research framework based on principles of participation and collaboration: the goal is to achieve deeper understanding of the processes surrounding foster care and to leave behind a research capacity that will bring to a qualitatively higher level the existing mechanisms of learning from experience.
  • 12. Case study: evaluative action research of the Nottinghamshire County Council Fostering Futures Therapeutic Service• Does young people’s wellbeing improve since joining the scheme: a) is there a line of evidence that symptoms are reduced and b) is there a line of evidence based on positive indicators of development and wellbeing?It is most likely that the various inputs from the system’s layers interact in a non-linear and complex manner with individual factors stemming from the young people’s history and personality structure on one hand and with other contributory factors from the environment, on the other hand.
  • 13. Case study: evaluative action research of the Nottinghamshire County Council Fostering Futures Therapeutic Service• The components of each of these factors are themselves in a dynamic interaction (e.g. the background, experience and specialist knowledge of the foster carers interweaves with the team’s therapeutic foundation and the effectiveness of various techniques).• All of them most probably depend on the culture, availability of service components, conceptual frameworks, structures and mechanisms of the fostering organisation as well as its resources, management, policies, regulations and relationship with other services that can complement the care for the young people.• The fostering organisation will be affected in turn by its immediate and wider environment.
  • 14. Case study: evaluative action research of the Nottinghamshire County Council Fostering Futures Therapeutic Service Systems’ interaction from a socio-technical perspective National policy Policy makers Political systemNottinghamshire County Councilors Council System of governance Placement Services Managers System of management Fostering Futures Social workers Therapeutic Fostering System of care Service Foster carers System of intimacy Foster families Children and young people
  • 15. Case study: evaluative action research of the Nottinghamshire County Council Fostering Futures Therapeutic Service• Theory of change model• Information from key stakeholders• Focus group discussions and use of creative methods• Questionnaires
  • 16. Case study: evaluative action research of the Nottingham County Council Fostering Futures Therapeutic Service Planning Reflecting Acting Observing/ EvaluatingThe Action Research Spiral (from DoH, 2001)
  • 17. Case study: evaluative action research of the Nottinghamshite County Council Fostering Futures Therapeutic Service Whose values?Putting the young people using Fostering Futures at the centre of the research.Involving in the research as researchers foster carers and social workers.Fostering forums for communication between all stakeholders: training workshops, regular meetings, joint/ discussion papers, etc
  • 18. In conclusion• Learning from experience is a psychodynamic concept and practice derived from Kurt Lewins model of informal learning that lies at the basis of our contemporary understanding of action research as a research method directed toward the solving of social problems (Lewin, 1948).• Lewins approach has been oversimplified into a mechanistic three-step process: Unfreeze - Change - Refreeze. In reality, it is a complex mental model of interwoven psychological, organisational and social processes of analysing actions within a systematic and feedback driven framework (Rosh, 2002).• Bringing together evaluative and action research allows for efficient, co-created and democratic practice development and policy making.
  • 19. Thank you for your attention. m.stateva@tavinstitute.orgI am looking forward to an interesting discussion with you!