Rigorous and valid accounts

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Criteria for a rigorous account

Richard Winter described 6 principles for enhancing the rigour of action research accounts and these have been used by Living Theory researchers such as Peggy Leong in her 1991 dissertation on The Art of an Educational Inquirer - see http://www.actionresearch.net/living/peggy.shtml

Winter explicates the six principles that Leong uses in her research in:

Winter, R. (1989). Learning from experience: Principles and practice in action-research. The Falmer Press.

The six principles are:

Criteria for a valid account

In enhancing the validity of living theories Whitehead recommends the use of Habermas' (1976) exposition:

"I shall develop the thesis that anyone acting communicatively must, in performing any speech action, raise universal validity claims and suppose that they can be vindicated (or redeemed: eislösen). Insofar as he wants to participate in a process of reaching understanding, he cannot avoid raising the following - and indeed precisely the following - validity claims. He claims to be:

  • Uttering something understandably;
  • Giving (the hearer) something to understand;
  • Making himself thereby understandable; and
  • Coming to an understanding with another person.

"The speaker must choose a comprehensible expression (verständlich) so that speaker and hearer can understand one another. The speaker must have the intention of communicating a true (wahr) proposition (or a propositional content, the existential presuppositions of which are satisfied) so that the hearer can share the knowledge of the speaker.

"The speaker must want to express his intentions truthfully (wahrhaftig) so that the hearer can believe the utterance of the speaker (can trust him).

"Finally, the speaker must choose an utterance that is right (richtig) so that the hearer can accept the utterance and speaker and hearer can agree with one another in the utterance with respect to a recognized normative background. Moreover, communicative action can continue undisturbed only as long as participants suppose that the validity claims they reciprocally raise are justified." (Habermas, 1976, pp. 2-3)

Habermas, J. (1976) Communication and the evolution of society. London: Heinemann

The validity of an explanation of educational influence in learning, that constitutes a living-educational-theory, can be strengthened by subjecting draft explanations to the mutual rational controls of critical discussion in validation groups of usually between 3-8 peers. Participants in validation groups are asked to respond to the explanation of educational influence in relation to the questions:

  • How could I enhance the comprehensibility of my explanation?
  • How could I strengthen the evidence I use to justify the assertions I make?
  • How could I deepen and extend my understanding of the sociohistorical and sociocultural influences in my practice and explanation?
  • How could I enhance the validity of my explanation in the sense of showing that I am living my ontological and relational values as fully as possible?

Other thoughts on rigour and validity?

... A quick word search shows there has been a lot published by qualitative researchers working in a variety of fields, such as Health, since Winter did his bit in the context of Action Research and Habermas in the context of Critical Theory. Is it time to critically and creatively engage with the most up-to-date literature to see if there are insights which might improve the rigour and validity of our accounts of our living-educational-theories'? Just a thought.