RE: [xmca] Action Research and its relationship to SCHAT

From: Jay Lemke (
Date: Sun Jan 21 2007 - 11:40:39 PST

Action Research is about solving immediate problems, but one of its
strategies is to get people talking about what those problems really
are. In the course of which they often re-define the key problems as
being larger than their immediate symptoms. When you then start to
collaboratively investigate these bigger issues, you almost always
find that history has played a role in getting us into the mess we're
in. And that understanding how to get out of it often depends on
figuring out a way around the path that historically got us where we are.

Why are school classes only 40 minutes long? why are students
segregated by age in schools? why don't teacher-student relationships
in schools last more than a few months to less than one year? why are
curriculum subjects separated? why is curriculum content dictated to
be uniform? why do we use pencil-and-paper testing? why don't
students get to learn from non-teacher mentors? why can't I take my
students on a field trip outside the school? why can't they learn by
participating/observing in other institutions?

Why can't we talk about the topics we're really interested in? why
can't we spend more than 2 weeks on this? why can't I learn basic
biology over 2 years instead of one? why can't we talk about human
sexuality? or famous gay figures in history? why can't we learn about
law, religion, economics, politics? why can't we discuss the causes
of violence in my neighborhood? Why don't I get paid for all the work
the school requires me to do?

The causes of most social headaches are institutional and structural,
and the timescales across which we need to look to understand how
they came to cause our headaches expand in historical time as we
probe these networks of causes.

Remember: give a man a fish, he eats today; teach him to fish, he
eats tomorrow too? Action research, and the CHAT perspective, is
about learning new ways to eat, about looking across longer relevant
timescales for alternatives and solutions, not about eating the first
fish to come our way (though if you're really hungry, why not?).


PS. Short-term solutions can give us the breathing space to seek
longer-term ones. But they can also exacerbate longer-term problems,
or disguise them until they get even worse.

At 01:30 PM 1/21/2007, you wrote:
>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.
>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

Jay Lemke
University of Michigan
School of Education
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Tel. 734-763-9276
Website. <>
xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Feb 01 2007 - 10:11:33 PST