Clients, colleagues or experts? defining identities in an action research project

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Coco, A, Varnier, C & Deftereos, C 2006, 'Clients, colleagues or experts? defining identities in an action research project', Community, customers, clients, colleagues and competitors: defining relationships through institutional research AAIR conference proceedings, Coffs Harbour, NSW, 22-24 November, Australasian Association for Institutional Research, Floreat, WA.


This paper examines how discourses shaped and were shaped by participants’ identities in a participatory action research (PAR) project in a tertiary education environment. The primary researcher and the director of the University’s desktop publishing Team explored the idea of working together to help the newly formed Team to develop strategies and procedures for setting up their workplace profile and related activities. Through informal, ‘getting to know you’ sessions, researchers and Team members discussed how the collaboration would proceed. Researchers introduced the idea of PAR and discussed with Team members’ their questions and observations as to how it would work. One aspect of the knowledge generating aspect of the PAR process was for researchers to feed information gained from confidential interviews, with both Team members and academic and administrative University staff, into the joint problem‐solving and action process. The proposal seemed agreeable to Team members. However during the course of attempting to develop the partnership, various discursive motifs emerged which militated against the possibility of Team members and academic researchers functioning as a collaborative partnership. This paper examines these motifs, arguing that while participants may ‘agree’ on ways of proceeding there may be culturally entrenched ideas and behaviours that are much more difficult to negotiate and overcome in a PAR process.