Transforming from the inside, Eleanor Doyle et al

Eleanor Doyle writes about her paper, recently published in ARJ: Constructive developmental interiority: Deliberately transformative action research.  Read on for the importance of our inner awarenesses. 

The imperative for change that is inherent in Action Research for Transformation (ART) calls for collective and substantial responses.  It is difficult to imagine that fundamental social, ecological and economic changes will unfold otherwise. What intrigued us — Sheila Butler, Maria Coakley and Eleanor Doyle — as a group of researchers in ART, was how transformation is experienced by individuals, and how it could be reported robustly and systematically. We see such individual change as necessary, if insufficient, to achieve collective change.  We were interested to know

  • what practical frameworks are available to help organize and report on transformation?
  • what fundamental features of transformation can be tracked and reported?
  • what obstacles lie in the way of transformation?

In the absence of practical frameworks, we were drawn to the notion of interiority as a gateway to elements of individual experience of transformation that align well with first-person inquiries.  Our concept of Constructive Developmental Interiority (CDI) advances an expansive notion allowing for qualitative differences in individual awareness capacity to be recognized.  This approach to constructive development builds on e.g. Kegan and Lahey (2009) and their Immunity to Change method.  What this means in practice is that cognitive, affective, interpersonal and intrapersonal experiences can be identified and recorded.  Considering these aspects in cycles of action and reflection allows for noting both development, and obstacles to transformation. 

In our paper, two cases apply the action research approach to very different contexts for transformation, one applying effectuation, the other applying critical pedagogy, to practice.  Both have a common focus on intentional transformation.  Although we privileged the first-person reporting of experience, our research complemented it with reflexive collaboration to collectively enhance the quality and validity of the research.  Collaboration was key in addressing the clash between espoused intention to transform when faced with deeply held assumptions, visible in first-person accounts, most evident at thresholds of transformation.

CDI addresses a gap in interior spheres which can prevent available new knowledge and evidence from experience translating into actual radical change. It offers a framework for individuals pursuing intentional transformation to identify and record constructive developmental shifts, while recognizing the need for community support and challenge through developmental reflexive activities.


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Eleanor Doyle