Researching with Communities: Challenges in Adult and Community Education in New Zealand
This paper explores the challenges and opportunities in undertaking collaborative action research with a diverse range of largely community-based Adult and Community Education (ACE) practitioners. ACE in New Zealand is currently the focus of a government-funded, sector-wide initiative aimed at enhancing professional development (PD) opportunities for practitioners, who work in a wide range of settings, urban and rural, and under the considerable constraints of funding and time. The aim of the initiative (Tertiary Education Commission, 2006) is to improve learner outcomes by increasing the effectiveness of teaching and learning in ACE. One of the TEC's four key strategies is to assist the development of an infrastructure for ongoing ACE PD, and to strengthen the sector as a whole, by encouraging existing networks of practitioners to adopt a 'community of practice' (Wenger, McDermott and Snyder, 2002) approach to PD and capability building. Responsibility for supporting the achievement of this outcome was given to a small team of university-based ACE practitioner-researchers who undertook a 12-month project with six ACE networks, located in diverse regions of New Zealand. Their study used a participatory action research methodology (Cardno 2003; Reason and Bradbury 2001) to collaborate with network members in exploring different individual and group PD needs and evaluating the effectiveness of various approaches. The paper describes the process of the research and some of the lessons it offered - for practitioners, researchers and policy makers.
Keywords: Adult Education, Adult Educators, Community Education, Adult and Community Education, Professional Development, Communities of Practice, Participatory Action Research
Dr. Liz Tully
Manager, Community Education, UC Opportunity, University of Canterbury
Dr. Marion Bowl
Senior Lecturer in Adult and Community Education, UC Opportunity, University of Canterbury