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Reading Kurt Lewin , 1946: “Action Research and Minority Problems”. Seminar on Qualitative Methods in Design WS11/12. Gunnar Stevens Human Computer Interaction University of Siegen, Germany. What do you think the author is most concerned about regarding this issue?

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reading kurt lewin 1946 action research and minority problems

ReadingKurt Lewin, 1946: “Action Research and Minority Problems”

Seminar on Qualitative Methods in Design

WS11/12

Gunnar Stevens

Human Computer Interaction

University of Siegen, Germany

slide2
What do you think the author is most concerned about regarding this issue?

“Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice” - Lewin

What is the author attempting to argue? “He asks, therefor, for action-research, for research which will help the practitioner”
motivating the paper s topic basic motivation
Motivating the paper’s topicBasic Motivation
  • Situation:
    • Lewin presents a study which deals with the improvement of inter group relations in the US
  • Evaluating situations by only observing leaves us with facts which could or could not only “mirror the surface”. It is hardly judgeable by us, whether we got a deep inside or not.
  • Stating the problem:
    • “What is the present situation”
    • “What are the dangers”
    • “What shall we do”
    • “One of the consequences of this unclearness is the lack of standards by which to measure progress”

“In a field that lacks objective standards of achievement, no learning can take place. If we cannot judge whether an action has led forward or backward, if we have no criteria for evaluating the relation between effort and achievement, there is nothing to present us from making the wrong conclusions and to encourage the wrong work habits. Realistic fact-finding and evaluation is a prerequisite for any learning. Social research should be on top of the top priorities for the practical job of improving intergroup relations.”

motivating the paper s topic character of research for the practice
Motivating the paper’s topicCharacter of Research for the Practice
  • “The research needed for social practice can best be characterized as research for social management or social engineering”
  • “It is a type of action-research a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action, and research leading to social action”
motivating the paper s topic integrating social sciences
Motivating the paper’s topicIntegrating Social Sciences
  • “Psychology, sociology and cultural anthropology each have begun to realize that without the help of the other neither will be able to proceed very far”
    • How does this affect our work as IT engineers?
    • Are we social engineers which happen to apply certain tools to alter “social reality”?
  • “amalgamation of the social sciences into one social science”
    • Economics has to be included as well
motivating the paper s topic two types of research objectives
Motivating the paper’s topicTwo Types of Research Objectives
  • “two rather different types of questions”
    • “the study of general laws of group life”
      • “’if so’ propositions”
      • “To act correctly, it does not suffice, however, if the engineer or the surgeon knows the general laws of physics of physiology. He has to know too the specific character of the situation at hand”
    • “the diagnosis of a specific situation”
      • “does not suffice”
      • “diagnosis has to be complemented by experimental comparative studies of the effectiveness of various techniques of change”
slide7
Motivating the paper’s topicThe Function and Positioning of Research within Social Planning and Action
  • How to “do” action research:
    • Action research is a “spiral of steps each of which is composed of a circle of”:
    • Planning
      • Result:
        • “over-all plan” how to reach the objective
        • “a decision in regard to the first step of action”
    • Action
    • Fact-finding “about the result of the action”
      • Four functions:
        • Evaluate the action
slide8
Motivating the paper’s topicThe Function and Positioning of Research within Social Planning and Action
  • Fact-finding “about the result of the action”
    • Four functions:
      • Evaluate the action
        • “what has been achieved”
      • “Learn […] new general insight […] regarding the […] techniques of action”
      • “Basis for correctly planning the next step”
      • “Basis for Modifying the overall plan”
motivating the paper s topic example of a change experiment on minority problems
Motivating the paper’s topicExample of a Change Experiment on Minority Problems
  • In this paragraph the author presents a application of action research
  • “We are facing here a question which is of the prime importance for any social change, namely the problem of permanence”
    • Are we encountering the same problems today?
  • Three different actions planned (page 40)
  • Fact-finding about intergroup relation problems

“To evaluate the effect of the workshop a diagnosis before the workshop would have to be carried out to determine, among other things, the line of thinking of the community workers […]. A similar re-diagnosis would have to be carried out some months after the workshop”

motivating the paper s topic example of a change experiment on minority problems1
Motivating the paper’s topicExample of a Change Experiment on Minority Problems
  • Every session was recorded to enable examination after the workshops themselves
  • Observers recorded their observations as well
  • Group leaders shared their insights too and also some attendees
  • “action, research and training as a triangle that should be kept together”
  • Later in the paragraph he deals with the problems towards “this” strategy of social science
  • He closes the paper with a concluding statement towards the study itself