This week I started reading Action Research in Teaching and Learning by Lin Norton. I’ve read a lot of books recently on action research and most have been very informative and provided helpful and stimulating advice that made me reflect on the theory and practice of my own research. Norton’s book is no exception but what I am really enjoying is the emphasis on reflective practice in, for want of a better word, ‘practical’ terms. For instance, Norton discusses including participants in reflective practice and the pitfalls of using reflective journals. I have had several people suggest that I should get my participants to keep reflective journals about their support needs and this approach was a key focus of my research when I first applied for my doctorate course. But I decided not to use this approach as I know that many students struggle with reflective writing and I did not want to put pressure on my participants to fulfil my expectations at the risk of them feeling inadequate; my research is about empowering students with mental health challenges not confining them. Reflective journals will be mentioned as a study aid (they are a component of one module I teach) but there will be no pressure from the perspective of my research. I want my student participants to explore what study approaches they think is helpful not what academics think they should do, and I will be using my regular email contact to encourage reflection with all my students as part of my proactive motivational support. Norton recognises that practitioner researcher needs to be aware of their students’ own experiences of learning.
The discussions on professionalism on career development have also been very useful and have given me ideas on developing my research career, including thoughts on how my current research might be expended in the future to look at specific interventions such as how I manage my tutor group forum in relation to mental health and wellbeing support. The book acknowledges that action research can be ‘messy’ and I’m looking forward to reading more.