The transformative potential of action learning in community-based research for social action
Lesley Wood and
Action Learning: Research and Practice, 2020, vol. 17, issue 1, 34-47
Action learning within community-based research is a powerful capacitator of social action. Here, we consider three aspects of action learning that are vital to enable this: (i) developing self-directed and lifelong action learning; (ii) generating local and theoretical knowledge through action research and reflection on learning; and (iii) identifying the key principles and processes of action learning as an integrated concept within the participatory action learning and action research (PALAR) paradigm. We argue that action learning has to be developed in a systematic, educational way to enable people to take responsibility for improving their life circumstances. Examples from university partnerships with communities in South Africa and Australia demonstrate how action learning, within a PALAR process, can inspire and enable individuals and whole communities to learn and develop skills, attitudes, values, and understandings to engage in social action most effective for their particular needs and contexts. In this way, people become self-directed learners, creators of knowledge and activists able to challenge and disrupt dominant power relationships and traditional ways of conducting research. These case examples illustrate how action learning, as part of a PALAR process, enables the university to partner with community for social action towards a more just society.
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