The puzzles of practice: Initiating a collaborative research culture

Year: 2009

Author: Davis, Niki, Fletcher, Jo, Groundwater-Smith, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In May 2009 we established the New Zealand Collaborative Action and Research Network (NZCARN) hub through the medium of an invited research symposium and associated Blog stimulated by contributions of a leading academic (Somekh 2009) founding member of the Collaborative Action Research Network. The principle purpose of the symposium was to establish a networked learning community in the form of"power networking"(Castells 2001), which is designed to change the way we perceive, organize, manage and consume educational research within an Action Research tradition complemented by sympathetic approaches, including Kaupapa Maori.

Our goal through NZCARN was to advance educational research and practice in New Zealand and internationally to map the diverse territory and identify the puzzles, dilemmas and contradictions among communities, practitioners, scholars and academic leaders.

It was essential in the conception of NZCARN that we honour the many ways of knowing and being within New Zealand, which is an increasingly bicultural nation, by opening the symposium with the understanding that Kaupapa Maori and Action Research approaches, while different are not incompatible. Within both approaches researchers are expected, by their communities to have some form of critical and historical analysis of the role of research in a range of dynamic contexts and sites (Macfarlane 2009). Thus a metaphor which dominated the proceedings was that of the braided river.

Active practitioners and leaders in action research in New Zealand were invited to this inaugural research symposium following site visits and these leaders were encouraged to identify others, including emergent researchers. The majority who were able to attend submitted abstracts and posters that provided evidence of the range and diversity of their work. The endeavour was underwritten by the university. The organization of the symposium provided significant amounts of time for critical conversation and input from leaders within and beyond New Zealand.

This proposal should not be read as merely a narrative of practice but rather as a means of revealing the ways through the complexities of practice. Each discussion group was required to identify the diversity, commonalities and ways forward. The emerging debates and tensions that crystallized with discussion included: empowerment as a problematic term; the place of critical theory; collaboration versus autonomy; and perceptions of partnership. We argue that the processes that were employed not only facilitated the mapping of the territory but also can be seen as compass that could guide others who wish to form similar research networks.

Key Phrase: Innovation in Research