'An Inquiry into the Effectiveness of my Practice as a Learning Practitioner-Researcher in Rural Community Development'
Séamus Lillis M. Agr. Sc.
In this study I research my practice in rural community development with a view to improving it.
The study reconceptualises the nature of rural community development by shifting perceptions of development as an externalised focus of study - which may be theorised about by detached 'outside' experts - to focusing on the insights from participants' experiences. These experiential insights facilitate a process where practitioners, other stakeholders and I can generate our own theories of how rural community development is advanced.
Long-established empirical approaches are effective in probing traditional technical, economic, practical, social and political characteristics of rural community development. But I wish to investigate the full range of the factors affecting rural communities, particularly ethical, aesthetic, spiritual, cultural and ecological influences. Here empirically based methodologies are less effective. This insight is developed in a series of three tables in chapter three, which describe the appropriate application of technical rational approaches to agricultural development (Table 1), action research approaches to rural development (Table 2) and what happens when - inappropriately - traditional technical rational methodologies are applied to rural development (Table 3).
I therefore chose action research as my working methodology of choice. Furthermore, action research is sensitive to the emergent nature of community development, to its contextual, practice-based and relational characteristics. The study therefore is located in the new scholarship of the post-modern era of scientific paradigms.
The study's findings question the appropriateness of traditional approaches to training in community development and highlight the 'knowledge in community' or wisdom shared by established communities' participants. As a teacher and advisor in horticulture, I mediated prescriptive technical expertise to farming clients. This approach did not help advance rural community development. This was a key discovery. I recount how, as a consequence, I changed and became a learning practitioner-researcher and how that stance advances my practice. In modelling this experience through examining my own practice, I provide an imitable pattern for other practitioners.
My findings are validated through critical thinking, through the critique of colleagues and scholars, through reflecting on successive drafts of this script, through support from the literature and through invited formal comment.
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JEAN MCNIFF'S (2010) ACTION RESEARCH FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: CONCISE ADVICE FOR NEW (AND EXPERIENCED) ACTION RESEARCHERS. DORSET, SEPTEMBER BOOKS. PLEASE GO TO WWW.SEPTEMBER-BOOKS.COM FOR FURTHER INFORMATION.
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