RE: [xmca] Action Research and its relationship to XMCAtheoreticaland methodological interests

From: Michael Glassman (
Date: Sun Jan 21 2007 - 10:30:32 PST

Hello Michael,
It seems to me the example you give about a headache has more to do with a definition of the problem than it does to do with the role of history. Do I define the problem as a need to remove the pain right now, or do I define the problem as the need to make sure I don't get headaches again. If I define the problem as the former then I take an aspirin, and because the consequences of the action are that I no longer have a headache, I am able to assert that the aspirin helped in getting rid of the headache, and I have a relatively high level of warranted assertability, and the aspirin becomes the first instrument I reach for when wanting to solve a similar problem. If I want to get rid of my headaches completely, I don't determine the cause beforehand, because that is going to guide my problem solving activity, but not necessarily in the right direction (let's say I think that my dog's barking is causing my headaches - I get rid of my dog, and that is my solution. But my headaches continue, and now I am without a dog). Instead I approach the problem as an experiment, setting up careful activities with measurable consequences. This is not to say that ideas that have gone before are not important, but only as part of an array of instruments I can use in my experiment.
But history often times plays a more important, defining role, that has implications for our problem solving. History takes a dominant position in our thinking and then we focus on maintenance of history rather than the solving of the problem. This, it seems to me, is at least part of the problem that action research is attempting to deal with, at least in some of its incarnations. It is interesting because Santayana makes the point very early that Americans have two ways of dealing with issues - the way they say they are going to deal with issues and the way that they actually do deal with issues. Even back in in early part of the nineteenth century American's were saying that they deal with issues through religion/ideology such as being Catholics, or Protestants, or Conservatives or such. But in actual problem solving Americans are almost always Naturalists, dealing with problems as they occur within the confines of nature. The difficulty is sometimes that ideology overwhelms Naturalism, and it does so through history - meaning it causes people to confuse who they say they are with what they do. Here in the United States we are going through an interesting political period in which individuals actually act (vote) against their own best interests. The question is why. Is it the manipulation of activity through the implications of history? Again, it seems to me that this was one of the issues Action Research is meant to solve (I have some ideas of why it might not be that successful related to the dynamic nature of information). This is why I wonder if the introduction of history from the CHAT perspective is necessarily a positive for Action Research. I don't have any answer for this, and I'm not drawing any conclusions. Just something this discussion on Action Research has spurred in my thinking.


From: on behalf of Wolff-Michael Roth
Sent: Sun 1/21/2007 12:52 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Action Research and its relationship to XMCAtheoreticaland methodological interests

Hi Michael,
the problem with "immediate problems" is that these are concrete
expressions of issues at a very different level. Addressing the
immediate problem is like taking aspirin when you hurt somewhere.
What this solution to your immediate problem does not provide you
with is an understanding of the causes of headache, so that taking
aspirin is only patching some deeper problem---the causes, which are
of a very different nature, could be psychological, psychosomatic,
physiological, etc.
Historical analysis of the system as a whole is one way of getting at
the determinants---causes---of the immediate problems and how these
are mediated by the system as a whole. There are neat analyses by
Klaus Holzkamp or Ole Dreier that show why in counseling, for
example, you need to do more than treat immediate causes.

On 21-Jan-07, at 9:15 AM, Michael Glassman wrote:

Had a chance to take a look at both Cathrene's chapters and the paper
by Anne Edwards. It is really interesting, good work. I am left
with an initial question. In both cases (and I might be wrong here),
what the authors were saying that CHAT (or SCRAT) have to offer
action research is a historical perspective, which, from what I am
reading, is not really part of Action research. The question this
brings to mind is, "Is this a good thing?" Do we naturally take
historical analysis as a good when we are attempting to deal with
immediate problems, and to sort of break the yoke the the larger
cultural foregrounding when attempting to deal with immediate
problems, or does it in some way "stack the deck" and force a more
culturally historical acceptable solution to the problem. It's a
problem I really struggle with. One thing that Cathrene's chapters
really did for me is make me recognize the relationship between micro-
genetic research and action research - because I suppose in the best
of all possible worlds micro-genetic research is action research (or
is it the other way around?)



From: on behalf of Wolff-Michael Roth
Sent: Sun 1/21/2007 11:32 AM
To:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Action Research and its relationship to XMCA
theoreticaland methodological interests

Hi all, regarding the question of action research in schools and
CHAT---i.e., the points Anne Edwards article is about---we also had
written many years ago a conceptualization of this form of research
and some variants in an online article that some might find
interesting in this context:

Roth, Wolff-Michael, Lawless, Daniel V. & Tobin, Kenneth (2000,
December). {Coteaching | Cogenerative Dialoguing} as Praxis of
Dialectic Method [47 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung /
Forum: Qualitative Social Research [On-line Journal], 1(3). Available
e.htm [Date of Access: Month Day, Year]

Cheers, Michael

On 19-Jan-07, at 5:37 PM, Mike Cole wrote:

Two papers have been posted and can now be found at the xmca website:

Catherene's chapters and the article by Anne Edwards.

We will be posting an article from the most recent, exciting, issue
of MCA
shortly. More about
that later since there is slippage in the process.

But the papers for discussion are there. Perhaps
Time for doing some research by taking action and finding them so you
comment, ask questions,
or provide an excuse not to do the dishes!!

Have a nice weekend all.
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