Surveys of CEOs and futurists alike all agree that the future is calling to us with a need for open systems, open thinking, collaborative organizations, workplaces and attitudes. Net-centric democratic education, public and private movements for social justice, moral and honorable business enterprises, and cross cultural communications all place a premium on skills, tools, and attitudes that encourage and multiply the network effect.
Doctoral research should reflect this same willingness to push boundaries, and encourage the use of collaborative teams of researchers and practitioners to explore collaborative theory and practice. If collaboration works in practice, there needs to be a theory of collaborative action, and the research in support of that practice should reflect the same principles as the work itself.
Like all new movements, there is a bootstrap problem when you try to go beyond conception into first action. How do you create the initial conditions to generate the spark of collaboration which can ignite the passion and energy of research teams? The words sound good, but we need a place to try it on for size; We need supportive yet challenging places to discover, invent , develop and propagate the best practices and techniques of collaborative knowledge creation. We need places to test our theories, tell our stories and plan for the next cycle.
Dr Alana James’ growing community of practice at reinventinglife.org, centered on the principles and techniques of Participatory Action Research, is just such a node. It serves as an incubator for researchers and doctoral students seeking to develop the net-centric research effect. It goes beyond dry academic reports of practice, by being a live and vibrant laboratory for discovering, applying and reporting on the “theory-in-use” of open education.
It is a combination of challenging questions, a tool repository for new applications of digital learning and research, and is creating a circle of multiple competencies that will support spin-off collaborations in a variety of settings that will propagate waves of change throughout the network like waves in a pond.
Dr James’ leadership in this area is paving a way for new approaches to research and practice and is exactly the kind of practice which needs support and recognition. She has the vision to imagine revolutionary positive changes in the world around her, the moral courage to invest in encouraging the Voices of students and co-researchers as we work to define and realize that future, and the skills to lead and encourage that change.
I am thinking about trying to figure out how to conduct research “properly” in the regions beyond the boundary of post-positivism.
Think of a farm that now borders the deep dark woods.
In the beginning we have a farm, surrounded by other farms, and over time, we haved figured out through trial and error, what works, even considering how variable the weather may be. The trial and error has been so successful that we have codified it into formal science and our success grew by leaps and bounds.
our farm now has expanded and on the border we encounter a deep, dark forest, whose boundaries we cannot see, only glimpse, and in whose depths we can see only shadows.
The farmland is the land where positivism and post-positivism excel. We are able to reduce and analyze problems and rely on the rules of cause and effect and the power of math to find answers and produce reliable solutions. It’s a land wherein all things are knowable.
In the forest, however, things change so much that our old rules don’t seem to apply. Things change faster there, unpredicatably, sometimes as if by chance, and at other times by rules that only sometimes seem to make sense, and the ruules seem to change as soon as we write them down. There are plenty of things we don’t yet understand. There seem to be things that are essentially unknowable. This is the land of complexity and chaos, where new rules sets are tentative and unproven. William Poundstone has written powerfully about these kinds of paradoxes in his book Labyrinths of Reason. The Sante Fe Institute in New Mexico researches this area in a scholarly manner.
It turns out that the epistemology of the farmland breaks down in the land of the forest. At the same time, the emerging rulesets of the forest don’t perform as well when you bring them into the farmland, because they are too tentative and uncertain, and in the farmland efficiency and certainty can be achieved and are rewarded.
People who would explore the forest know a lot less about that region than the people who explore the farmland know about the farms, and sometimes they talk past each other because they are coming from 2 different epistemologies, which in turn can create a disconnect at the ontological level itself (ie the nature of the world).
My sense is that in the “forest” of complexity, chaos and uncertainty, that mixed methods are going to be absolutely essential when it comes to developing an understanding of how to stay alive and thrive out there.
As we grow in knowledge we are able to push the boundaries of the farm out into the forest. everything that is coming out of the study of the science of complexity and uncertainty and chaos, however, suggests that there is some vast amount of forest that must remain out there beyond our ability to “domesticate” with the power of post-positivism.
This doesn’t disrespect post-positivism and all the good that it can do, it only says that the world is stranger than we CAN imagine so far, and that in the forest a different world view is useful.
The Sante Fe folks have a combination of pragmatism and constructionism threaded throughout their work, while at the same time having a deep and abiding respect for science and scientific method, as evidenced by the Nobel laureates they have on staff
Creswell talks about the 4 worldviews that shape the research goals, objectives, methods, interpretive measures, and sense making of researchers. I inherited a post-positivist outlook from my formative years working in a machine shop with designers, engineers, craftsmen, and other shop rats. My years of experience as a planner in the Army helped me appreciate the pragmatic worldview, which drives you to focus on results by any means necessary and without an overly strict compulsion to stay committed to a particular method, at the cost perhaps of sacrificing deep understanding or the pursuit of Truth.
I have rejected advocacy as a legitimate worldview for most of my life, with the exception of the values of freedom and democracy, as I am unwilling to committ on faith to untested beliefs, and have witnessed how advocacy can lead people to distort findings and spin results.
Constructivism seems more and more useful to me as I investigate social situations and complex human problems and opportunities.
The doctoral program is really helping me examine my beliefs and knowledge claims, and I have seen the positive results in my teaching that have emerged fron the cycles of reflective learning.
I have hit a tipping point where I must begin the convergent writing and thinking that will result in the dissertation, and it is with some sadness that I recognize that I have to put some of the divergent thinking aside in order to focus on task accomplishment. This part of the journey wont be as much fun. I wish I could just push a button and get thru it and get back to scouting new knowledge areas which is how i prefer to spend every waking moment, in order to feed my dreams.
a number of faculty and officers gathered around a whiteboard to try to create their own practical sense of the distinction and relationship between design and planning. The series of diagrams reflected in the image unfolded over a discussion of several hours as we tried to connect the doctrinal and scholarly terms to our own words and experiences, to forge a link of meaning between doctrine and practice.
I should have done this a long time ago. I created 2 new pages on the blog to collect an indexed list of the videos of mini-lectures for my doctoral research and my Army classroom professional stories. These will be a more organized way to layout a menu of choices for students and interested parties to view my stuff in the areas of force management and force sustainment.
I have probably a hundred refined little speeches I tend to give in various classes that reflect my best practices from my active duty service, but also some things that have emerged as refinements in the schoolhouse through engagement with the great officers who share their perspectives of the war and discuss theory and practice.
I find myself in class hurrying at times to squeeze these in, out of a sense of duty. It’s not always good pedagogy and it would be nice maybe to let the students know about them ahead of time so that we can engage in dialogues of their choosing based on their needs instead of always doing what I want to do.
Time to relinquish the mike a little more? here is a way to offer my humble “greatest hits” and let them follow their interest.
There maybe some value add for my fellow instructors too on my areas of competence, since our faculty are responsible for a wide range of areas; so wide in fact that they don’t have direct personal experience in all of the fields.
Example:our faculty teach sustainment lessons at strategic, operational and tactical levels of war; they cover maintenance, transportation, supply, medical, personal, explosive ordnance disposal, band, finance, personnel, contracting, and all elements of force management; design, plans and operations; Joint and army support operations; plus whatever their elective course specialties are. faculty development programs are an important area of concern for us.
that’s a pretty full plate, so perhaps these videos can be of some help to them as well.
“Lifting our voices” by Ken Long (PAR journal entry J20090724.doc)
In this essay I will describe a construct we are calling “Voice”, my background, my research, and some implications for the doctoral research process in general and how it is affecting Dr Alana and me in our mentor-mentee relationship.
I am a retired Army officer, in my 7th year teaching at the US Army Command & General Staff College at Ft Leavenworth KS. In a series of Participatory Action Research (PAR) cycles, we determined that our most interesting question was; “What happens when we increase “Voice” in the college?”
We defined “Voice” as a construct that encompassed all manners and methods of formal and informal dialogue with respect to the curriculum, the environment, the policies, procedures and classrooms of our college by any member of educational community. It includes what is said and implied, the reactions, the dialogue, the consequences, and the effects on infrastructure and policy.
We are interested in this question because it affects more than just students and faculty, but many people in our society and in our Army; it touchs what we teach, how we teach, and how we decide. It evokes powerful archetypes and icons of our culture like freedom of speech, speaking truth to power, “speaking out”, raising our voices, “testifying”, story-telling; it tests our assumptions about our strong traditional military hierarchy and the nature and process of educating leaders for work in the modern complex, uncertain world. In short, it is an intersection of many interesting cross sections of our layers of society and speaks to who we are as people in various roles. It puts the question to us: How do you respond to the Truth of others?.
The seed crystal for this concept emerged from the earliest mentor- mentee discussions between Dr Alana and me, beginning with the idea of Personal Learning Environment movement and the uniquely suitable PAR method of helping students and faculty define these PLEs in each situation. As a new concept in open education, I started looking at the ripple effect of this concept unfolding from the center of PAR discussions into the widest reaches of the college, and eventually the construct of Voice came into being as a result of ongoing PAR discussion and inquiry.
One of the PAR outcomes for me was to document the change in my own 1st person teaching practice, which has a tradition in the AR community as outlined in this post at my blog, which includes extensive footnotes and references: https://kansasreflections.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/a-reflection-o…s-of-knowing-p/
The more I explored my own Voice, the mor ways I looked to make myself accountable and accessible to the wider community through writing, speaking, recording and “performing in public. My sense of communities of interest widened to include groups of students, peer faculty, senior Army leadership, Colorado Tech faculty and peer students, students in Dr Alana’s mentoring group, broad communities of interest accessible through the web through social networks, twitter, Youtube, my blog, etc.
My own practice is becoming a daily reminder of DR Alana’s promise of the revolutionary power of PAR. That by shipping out your ideas to other nodes in the network of interest, the ideas will seek and find a place where they may be implemented. So its necessary to keep pushing the frontier even in ideas that may not be feasible in your present circumstances. You give back to the world by sharing all your ideas, nit just the ones that are practical for you today.
This leads me to the video of my research process and current status Dr Alana has uploaded. That is me being open and accountable for my actions with an invitation to the world to discuss and dialogue, where I can inform and in turn be informed.
An outcome of that video, seen by several hundred people in the 10 days since I published it is that I have new contracts interested in my work within the college, and I used it as a “listen-ahead” before my meeting with the college Dean to get permission to conduct my research within my college. It establishes a an opening statement in a dialogue that will shape and refine my research and my practice, and also the college itself as it has ideas that are of interest to the Dean and senior Army leaders. Voice changes us through the actr of speaking, and listening and engaging.
As an artifact between Dr Alana and I in our mentor and mentee relationship, we have a touchstone here, an artifact that marks the story in this time and place. I see it as part of the ongoing defense of my dissertation, which I interpret to mean the “discourse of my dissertation” because I frame this as an opportunity for growth and knowledge creation which will unfold in cycles, in the same way that PAR evolves and unfolds in cycles to find the most important things to work on.
In practical terms, it is a way for Dr Alana to shape this lump of clay in the doctoral way and to shape the final dissertation defense through this phase of preparation. It’s a great rehearsal for me to unpack and express my complex thoughts. It is said that writing is thinking, and I would extend the idea to that of “presenting” to incorporate more than just the written word. I highly recommend you try the technique as it has a tremendous clarifying and focusing effect on you as you hear the ideas come forth. I knew more about my research proposal at the end of making the video than I did when I first began to sketch out the slide. As an artifact it will continue to pay me back for the investment in creating it.
My background, outlined at LinkedIn.com http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ken-long/9/294/293
My blog with plenty of doctoral writings and narratives : https://kansasreflections.wordpress.com
Our departmental blog at Command & General Staff College: http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/BLOG/blogs/dlro/default.aspx
My Youtube Video channel, which includes doctoral narratives, and mini-lectures that are used within classes that I author and teach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtIEL-gn0l4
A great guitar instrumental with 3 legends of the guitar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdJ9RS_Xubs