In planning for a talk at OCMS on Action Research Methodology I have found myself back in my books looking for some wisdom to present. I tried to think back to my own research journey and reflect on what I would have valued most. What would have been helpful information, what could I present to new PhD students about to embark on their own new exciting, scary confusing and uncertain research journey.
My thoughts turned to a powerful memory of sitting in the departures lounge at San Fransisco airport. I was doing some background reading on the work of Paul Ricoeur; reading the Owl of Minerva by Paul Kearney. As I read, I began to have an overwhelming sense of coming home. As I turned the pages of the book, I began to see a philosophical framework unfold that resonated with the work I was developing. Each chapter seemed to unlock more and more insights into a way of experiencing the world that matched my research design. This is what research is all about I thought. It was here at SFO that I first began to appreciate the pleasure of learning and developing new insights through the work of others in the light of my own understanding.
“To interpret meaning is, for Ricoeur, to arrive in the middle of an exchange which has already begun and in which we seek to orientate in order to make some new sense of it.” (Kearney, 2004, p5)
For me this explained the principles of Action Research in a simple metaphor which was easy to understand. There isn’t a beginning or an end to knowing but rather there is a journey to be embarked upon which reveals new knowledge in the process of engagement and interpretation.
I think this is what I will pass on to the students next week. As I am beginning to try to make sense of the next phase of my own research journey, I have found that learning is always beginning and never ending but there is much pleasure to be had on the way. I have now stepped into a new unfamiliar place but having traveled this journey once before, so it does not seem quite so daunting. The Owl of Minerva is traditionally depicted as a sacred owl connected to wisdom, for me it will always symbolize a turning point in my understanding and a renewed confidence in a philosophical position which not only feed my research but also gave me confidence to look at the world in a new way.