What is Transformative Action Research?

Transformative Action Research can contribute to many things . . .

Community improvements

Educational innovation

Organizational Improvements

Social Change

Social Justice

Community-Based Activism

Theory Building

Problem Identification

Problem Solving

Community Participation

Collaborative Learning and Inquiry

Staff Engagement

Learner Involvement

Daily insights and reflections

Inquiry at micro, mezzo and macro levels, together

Community-Based Think Tanks

Diversity and Inclusiveness

Learner-centered Education

Program Evaluations

Needs Assessments

Strategic Plans

Everyday learning and improvisation

Many more specific illustrations can be found by obtaining the two recently published books on Transformative Action Research by Routledge Press

How to Become a Colleague and Partner in the Transformative Action Research Community

  1. Submit Questions and Share Ideas for Our New Blog, “Transformative Action Research—Learning and Collaborating to Create a Better World” –email to johnb@wisr.edu Note: depending on the volume of submissions, all questions and ideas may not be shared, but every effort will be made to include all those that are relevant to “transformative action research” (for ideas, read abstracts of chapters for the two transformative action research books, and see list “Transformative Action Research can contribute to many things” to learn more about the theme of the blog).  Published questions and ideas will be addressed/commented on by John Bilorusky, and/or submitted as food for thought for readers of the blog.
  2. Attend one of our Occasional (roughly quarterly) Zoom Seminars, open to the public, to discuss topics related to Transformative Action Research. First Seminar: Saturday, October 8, 2022, 10 am to Noon Pacific Time. For zoom link: contact:  johnb@wisr.edu
  3. Arrange for John Bilorusky to provide low-fee consultation services for you, your educational institution, or community organization, or to collaborate with you in developing an action project using transformative action research.
  4. If you are interested in graduate education in education, psychology, community leadership, and/or social change, learn more about WISR’s academic degree programs, through our distinctive and personalized ways of doing interactive, distance learning.
  5. Purchase and Review either or both of the recently published books on Transformative Action Research. To read an overview of each book, the endorsements by experts in the field, and the table of contents of each book, and to learn more about John Bilorusky, 1) for the book on Principles and Methods, go to: https://www.routledge.com/Principles-and-Methods-of-Transformative-Action-Research-A-Half-Century/Bilorusky/p/book/9780367742430 , and 2) for the book on Cases and Stories, go to:  https://www.routledge.com/Cases-and-Stories-of-Transformative-Action-Research-Five-Decades-of-Collaborative/Bilorusky/p/book/9780367742461                  Places to purchase:

Blog–Transformative Action Research

Questions and Ideas Submitted
Comments by John Bilorusky
(forthcoming soon, here
) . . .

Post #2, August 23, 2022.  Open Forum to Ask Questions about Uses of Transformative Action Research, scheduled for Saturday, October 8, 2022, 10 am to Noon Pacific Time.  To get the zoom link, register in advance for free at:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

 Post #1, August 16, 2022

One scholar recently posed these questions of interest to them:

1) In your opinion, what factors can be known as barriers to students’ creativity and innovation for better learning at school? and what do you suggest?

2) In your opinion, how can organizational changes be possible with the possibility of resistance from the organization’s employees?

3) In your opinion, what are the obstacles in creating “learning organization culture” at schools?

These are important, and challenging, questions.  I do not presume to have answers, but I do have thoughts, and these thoughts come from two perspectives: 1) my own experiences over the years, and 2) ways that transformative action research methods might begin to investigate these questions.

COMMENT RE #1: Barriers to creativity and innovation often result from two sources—the limited mindsets of many (but not all) teachers based on their own experiences and tendency to adhere to what they think education “should look like.” Related to that, schools and the administrators of schools tend follow narrow guidelines of what is supposed to be in the curriculum, how students should be “assessed” to “prove” that they are learning, and so on. Many of these guidelines and procedures, while well-intended, limit creativity and learning.

Related to the ideas of transformative action-research, just as one must be able to improvise to do effective and transformative action-research, just as one must be able to change and revise their methods of inquiry as they learn more about what they’re studying, so, too, do teacher and educational leaders need to take seriously that they must IMPROVISE from the “scripts” that they have learned to adhere to.  Without script-improvisation by teachers and school leaders, it is impossible to nurture and support student creativity and innovation. Indeed, teachers and school leaders should MODEL the ability to improvise, so that students can “see” how others exercise creativity and innovation.  A specific, research strategy might include—LOOKING FOR “EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE”—that is, look for those classrooms, those teachers, and those students who seem to demonstrate creativity and innovation. Then, STUDY THOSE EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE VERY CAREFULLY—learning more about these positive, exceptional circumstances where students can be creative may point the way toward how other teachers, and other schools may emulate (but of course, still re-adapt and improvise for each circumstance) the qualities that nurture creativity.

COMMENT RE #2: Unfortunately, organizational change often does meet from resistance. Sometimes the resistance is just that people are uncomfortable doing things differently than they have done them before, or seen them done before. Sometimes, people may feel their status or jobs are threatened if things change. There can be of course many reasons such as these.

There are two action research strategies (among others) that might provide some hope of breaking through this resistance. One, noted above, is to do research that sheds light on those positive (even if perhaps unusual circumstances) in which people do, either rapidly or gradually, become more open to change. Inquire into how and why this happened—what are the qualities in these exceptional cases that encouraged people to change, despite initial resistance?  A second strategy (both can be pursued) is to engage many people (even those initially resistant) in doing the action-research.  Try to solicit their interest in interviewing students, other teachers, other administrators—asking them questions about what each person thinks seems to be working well, what could be done better. (And, as the person trying to work for change, you could suggest some more pointed, specific questions, such as how to encourage more creativity.) Ask those helping with the research (many of whom may be resistant to change) to come together in the spirit of CURIOSITY AND COOPERATION to try to gain new insights. This may not always work, but often if people feel their voice matters and if asked to be an active part of the inquiry, then they may be less resistant to change.

COMMENT RE #3: The idea of a “learning organization culture”, in terms of what I think you mean by this is a great idea. And, it does relate to the other two questions about nurturing innovation and creativity and overcoming resistance to change. It is also key to a few of the main qualities I aim to work toward when doing “transformative action research.”  First, collaboration (see comments re #2 above) is very powerful—it can overcome the negative emotions of fear and competitiveness towards others, and generate a more positive and nurturing culture of “collaboration.” Still, obviously, easier said than done.  Asking people for their ideas, AND TO COOPERATE IN THE SPIRIT OF CURIOSITY about how to improve things—can sometimes get people in the mood to collaborate. It’s difficult—in many cultures (including where I live in the U.S.) people are often learn to be competitive and fearful, and these are emotional obstacles to be overcome. Similarly, we can all get stuck in our ways, and in the kind of culture you aim for (if I understand you) people support each other in learning—in trying to do “script improvisation”—in trying to be creative, and to be creative while collaborating with one another.  It can be very rewarding—the challenge has to get people, starting with even several or a small number of people to try to get into this way of collaborating together—and enjoying the new insight and the new actions that can oftentimes grow out of improvisation.  AGAIN, LOOK FOR EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE WHERE PEOPLE ARE ABLE TO DO THIS, AND THEN TRY TO IDENTIFY THE QUALITIES THAT SEEM PERHAPS TO HAVE NURTURED THIS.

Thank you for sharing these excellent questions and thoughts!

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