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ALARA Monograph No 4

Monograph No. 4 (2013)

Engaging the Arts, Humanities and Design in Action Research and the Helping Professions

David Moxley, Holly Fern Calligan and Olivia G.M. Washington

By using content from two action research projects, the authors offer an original theory of developmental action research incorporating the benefits of the arts, humanities and design. Through identification of a problem or need for change, imagination of potential solutions, and mobilization of next steps, parallel methods in artistic and design processes and action research can converge to facilitate reflexivity and praxis as products of purposeful action to engage in social betterment in partnership with people who experience marginalization.

The authors offer a rationale for the inclusion of the arts, humanities and design linking action research and the helping professions. They then consider the aesthetic dimension of action research and show how the studio setting can serve as a safe environment for experimentation and self-expression through verbal and non-verbal modalities, where the artistic/design processes and products serve as metaphors for or equivalents of behaviors and experiences used to develop prototypes for action and change. Through reflection and validation from others, individuals gain insight and together work to design methods for individual and collective development and social activism. The process of creative self-expression involving action and reflection in groups facilitates catharsis, inspiration, and motivation steering subsequent action.

The authors propose how the arts, humanities and design augment action research goals through recognizing environmental and aesthetic impacts, reflection upon common experiences and identification of strengths and resources to motivate and effect change among those who experience social marginalization.

The arts, humanities and design contribute to action research by:

  1. Putting a human face on a social issue; illuminating individuals’ first-hand experiences with a social issue;
  2. Helping to develop innovative strategies for individual and social change;
  3. Contributing to social justice and the emancipation of marginalized people;
  4. Creating community as people from diverse backgrounds discover common interests and mutuality;
  5. Identifying potential solutions to social problems;
  6. Facilitating expression of emotion;
  7. Mobilizing action within the participants themselves, as well as public audiences; and
  8. Challenging biases may bring to social issues.

In considering developmental action research that incorporates the arts, humanities and design the authors offer a set of ethical practices involving dignity, authenticity, creativity and participation that together can transform action for social betterment.

Download ALARA Monograph No. 4 - Moxley, Calligan and Washington, 2013 (217 KB)

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