Master of Arts in Educational Technology (OMET) Pepperdine University  
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Journal Entry - Three [posted Tuesday, August 26,2008]

Today I read an interesting article entitled, “Action research as a peer support process for postgraduate students” written by Dr. Kath Fisher, James Bennett-Levy und Ros Irwin of Southern Cross University, Lismoree, N.S.W., Australia.

Group for Accountability and Support (GAS), a peer support group consciously set up within an action research framework, provided intellectual, practical and emotional support for their research, as well as offering accountability and opportunities to reflect on the process. Even though this article focused mainly on peer support in promoting student learning, the authors structured their peer support group based on key elements of an action research model: planning, action, monitoring, evaluation and reflection. They found that the model provided intellectual and emotional support, as well as offering accountability and reflection to their process. What was attractive to the founders of GAS, was the foundation of practice and action with an emphasis on self-reflection and improvement.

The authors went on to point out the costs, dangers and potential pitfalls of their support group that I have similar concerns about as well: time commitment, risk of personal exposure, risk of challenging relationships of power, support group becoming a substitute for supervision, and accountability.

As I read further, I understood how some of the basic elements of the success of GAS were dependent on a number of factors that I might use in my Action Research Project. The support group was based on the following values:

  • Basis in friendship and shared values - mutual respect and liking for each other, shared a passion, understanding and commitment, and a shared a belief in the importance of self-reflection in the process of personal and professional development.
  • Openness to feedback - prepared to be open with each other and to give and receive constructive feedback.
  • Commitment of time - willing to commit the time required to enable us to prepare, meet, document and reflect
  • Process structure - was most important as it enabled us to be focused on our tasks and to provide personal support and quality attention to each other.

This philosophy aligns with not only my own values, but with the authors McNiff and Whitehead, that action research is a “purposeful, morally committed practice.”