1. Action research is used here to refer to ways of investigating professional experiences which link to practice, or investigating and improving situations or systems in organisations or communities. The cycle of observation, reflection, planning and action is iterative and the plan of the research evolves over time with input from a range of stakeholders and participants in the research, as the research progresses. There is a continuous and participative research and learning, and action for change and improvement, by a group. Data is collected to inform the group about the context for present practice; generating theory about, in, and for the area of practice; connecting emergent theory to previous theories in that field; and disseminating the theory so that others may benefit from it. In academic research there is often a leader of the research (in the case of a postgraduate student, the writer of the thesis) but at some stages during the research group(s) are involved in designing the research, or collecting the data, or interpreting it, or improving their own practice or learning.
2. Action research which is being led by an AUT staff member or student, or undertaken by a group which includes AUT staff or students, must have:
2.1. preliminary ethical approval of a broad outline of the research method
2.2. ethical approval of a confirmation proposal (or of a series of confirmation proposals for different cycles or stages of the research)
prior to the collection of data from or about human subjects where ethical approval is required by AUTEC. For information on whether ethical approval is needed see Section 6 of AUTEC's Applying for Ethics Approval: Guidelines and Procedures
2.3. The preliminary proposal should include the proposed topic/question/practice area/problem and the context and intended time-frame within which the research will take place. There should be a statement of the intended improvement to practice(s)/ influences on stakeholders/emancipation of participants /audiences for dissemination of the research. There should also be a statement about how rigour will be attained/maintained, such as the number and type of intended cycles, the initial makeup and credibility of the core research group. This proposal may explain how the research leader or group intends to cope with a variety of possible scenarios.
3. This proposal should also outline the steps which will be taken to make sure that relevant stakeholders have been consulted and have given their approval for the research to proceed; the strategies to be used to encourage participants or community members to influence the research plan or process or tools and yet also allow those who do not wish to participate or who wish to have limited participation to express their views and have them respected; the strategies by which it is intended that the research results will be disseminated or utilised; and the intended roles of research participants or stakeholders in the production of publications or other research outputs for intended audiences.
4. Subsequent confirmation proposal(s) should include details of the selected research questions, subtopics and themes related to improvement and evaluation of practice or a situation as the research evolves; the arrangements for meetings of the research group, practice group or community group; the types of data to be collected and the methods to be used; and the negotiations over obtaining or sharing information or agreements over interpretation, publications and authorship. Changes to the preliminary proposal should be included, with reasons. Appropriate confirmation approvals from AUTEC should be sought for different stages of the research and each may be approved by a subcommittee of AUTEC.
There are two kinds of potential participants - the research group asked to participate by the leading researcher or action research facilitator, and other participants who may be asked to provide data by the research group at any stage during the evolving research process. All must give their informed consent to the relevant aspect of their participation. For the preliminary proposal, the informed consent of the initial research group/ practice group should be sought and included. Action research requires the researcher(s) to follow the primary consent process with a multistage process. For subsequent confirmation proposal(s) the method and documents used to obtain informed consent from others should be included if and when applicable. The process used to obtain consents should be reflected upon and documented.