Vignettes—Stories of action research by WISR learners and their reflections on what they did

Mexican American street gangs by Alex Martinez

The last and most intense project I completed at WISR was my thesis, where I examined Mexican American street gangs and gained many insights surrounding larger social issues that contribute to gang participation ... the most important thing I got out of WISR was not a piece of paper with my name on it followed by M.A., but the personal transformation I experienced while undergoing my studies. My new-found passion for writing has inspired me to pursue my lifelong dream of writing and publishing a book. With the research and writing practice I got at WISR, I feel that I am more ready to pursue this challenge than ever before. On top of this literary improvement, I challenged myself and learned more about myself than I ever knew. I faced my demons during my thesis project, and the cathartic effect of facing my unpleasant memories was liberating for my soul. These personal changes were the result of my WISR studies, as the time I spent working on my undergraduate degree at San Jose State University did not come close to matching this personal development. (Alex Martinez, 2016)

Here is the abstract of Alex Martinez’s thesis on “Transcending Dispositional Attributes: The Impact of Social Marginalization on the Subculture of Mexican American Street Gangs”—which examined the subculture of the two predominant Mexican American street gangs, the Norteños and Sureños:

In this thesis, Alex Martinez examined the foundation of these gangs, how they have evolved, and the role of numerous social factors that contribute to gang participation. Included in the thesis are Alex Martinez’s personal experiences, a literature review from a wide range of sources, and original data derived from interviews with 13 participants, all of whom have special insight into the world of gangs. Mr. Martinez accessed many sources for this project, including books, articles, personal experiences from both himself and others, and interviews with experts and knowledgeable people who have experience with gangs. He learned about the origin of these gangs, what leads individuals to join them, and how larger social issues, such as social marginalization and globalization, are impacting the proliferation of gang members. Mr. Martinez noted that he gained numerous insights during the course of his research, such as the importance of larger social issues as opposed to dispositional factors when considering gang involvement. (Martinez, 2012).

The challenges facing foster youth as they age out of the system by Monika Scott-Da vis

WISR instructs its students in a technique called action research which is used in all of our projects. The goal for a project was to discover what the actual practice in the community was and discover new options for further research. (Monika Scott-Davis, 2016)

Monika Scott-Davis’ Master’s thesis, which, now, she is building on in her dissertation ten years later, explored what the future holds for foster youth aging out of the system. This thesis contains interviews with emancipated foster youth, foster parents, social workers, and other adults who assisted in their transition to adulthood. After conducting interviews, Ms. Scott-Davis found several resonating themes, which were common to those who have resided in foster care. Most youth would have preferred kinship care verses living with a non-related family or in a group home, along with access to education liaisons to ensure successful academic progress, and a strong mentorship program. Everyone interviewed stressed the need to have one consistent person in their life, as a guide, confident, or just an ear to listen. Her research found that the average American child raised at home with their family receives some form of support from their families until age 27, while they pursue college or some other form of training. Youth emancipating from the foster care system need no less support, they need more.

Using story-centric education while teaching in China by Stephen Fletcher

I often thought of myself as a “free thinker” but previous to the WISR experience I was a ‘scattered free thinker.’ After my time at WISR my critical thinking skills and my creative thinking skills expanded. Additionally, my ability to articulate my thoughts in an organized manner increased significantly. Though I did not have great expectations of changes in my thinking and writing skills, nevertheless, they did. My self-confidence and several other intangible things have gone up also ... At WISR I gained the courage to evaluate teaching theories and methods that are in the current fashion or use. I was able to develop several methods and theories because of the strength of what I gained at WISR. (Steven Fletcher, 2016)

Dr. Fletcher’s doctoral studies drew on, and contributed to, his role as a professor in a Chinese university. His dissertation was a study of his “delta methods” storytelling strategy as part of a process of transformational education. The dissertation had two primary parts: First, there was an investigation into transformational education with a focus on active listening and Delta Stories (short-short stories that intend to create events in the minds of the readers that facilitate transformational learning). Secondly, a book was written called Story Centric Education. The book discusses in detail how stories can enhance education and healing. The research consisted of interviews with 13 teaching assistants (TA’s) in China, from several oral English classes (English as a foreign language) taught by Steven. The interviews focused on a qualitative assessment of the impact of the transformational education that the TA’s experienced and helped students to experience, as part of Steven’s approach to college teaching. The primary focus was on the use of Delta Stories and on active listening as agents of a transformational process experienced by the TA’s and by the students studying English. The results were then interpreted by the TA’s, by Steven’s research assistant, by Steven himself and by a third party.

Croup therapy for survivors of domestic violence in a rural community by Jim Newberry

I was inspired by WISR’s emphasis on action research. It meshed easily with my own desires to work on a community project, use the best methods I could find, and explore its effectiveness. I was pleased both by the experience and the writing. (Jim Newberry, 2006)

For his action research thesis project, Mr. Newberry initiated, at Mountain Crisis Services in Mariposa, California, a six-week mindfulness-based, experiential group therapy series for seven rural survivors of domestic violence. This therapeutic intervention was conducted by Mr. Newberry under the guidance of his supervisor at Mountain Crisis Services. To study the intervention, the student used action research methods. Interviews were conducted with participants and community members before, during, and after the sessions. Goals of the project were to provide a mind-fulness-based group therapy experience, examine and evaluate its effectiveness, and suggest improvements based on what was learned in the examination. The results showed that group members were generally pleased with the sessions and felt that they were making progress in their lives in part because of them.

Health care globally, beginning with Cuba by Uwe Blesching

Uwe Blesching earned his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees at WISR from 1996 to 2006. He states that

learning along the way was not simply arbitrary, or limited by the constraints of the initial research package but by using the unique approach of qualitative research it allowed for the absorption of change in such a way as to adjust and integrate these changes or newly learned and examined experiences in a meaningful way even though they were not part of the initial research design. (Uwe Blesching, 2006)

Some of Uwe’s studies focused on health care, globally, beginning with the study of the Cuban health care system:

I was doing some initial research on the health care system in Cuba when during the many interviews and visits new ideas emerged about the value of wanting to communicate some of the valuable insights I had found to people I believe could practically benefit from it. Cuba has a wealth of health care knowledge, that sadly we have no access to because of politics, that can make a difference to many people, especially those with little money or insurance. As I expanded my research beyond the borders of Cuba and began to look more globally, similar opportunities presented themselves at many comers. Throughout this process, and with the ... explorative style of learning I have by now collected literally hundreds of health care suggestions. Furthennore, from much of the detailed work, I have, over time, determined several important criteria that allow me to see the bigger picture. I discovered that many of the individual healthcare problems were a microcosmic minor for the big picture in health care delivery almost anywhere in the world. Based on that insight and as a way to educate and redirect away from the impact of detrimental health care practices individually as well as on a large scale, I have developed important criteria, that are natural, most everywhere easily accessible, sustainable, inexpensive, safe, effective and self-empowering. (Uwe Blesching, 2006)

The politics of compassion and the dynamics of food distribution by Mary Kay Sweeney

Traditional education, in my view, attempts to strain information about the world we live in through the sieve of simplification. In fact, and to the contrary, the world is quite complex and interrelated. My experiences at WISR have brought me to a comfort with that complexity and some patience with the entire process of integration ... Perhaps one of the most salient learnings that I have gained from my experiences at WISR is that it’s never over. While a seminar or a study group or a project or even a dissertation may end, it is never complete. WISR gives learners the opportunity to be comfortable with engaged learning and with the gradual insights gained fr om pursuing thought and research into important issues in the context of the political / social realities of life.

My notions and understanding about research have changed and grown dramatically since I have been at WISR. Again, it has been a matter of unlearning as much as it has been of learning. Action research presents a much more multidimensional understanding of a problem or an issue than does linear and fonnula-based research. Action research allows both the interviewer and the interviewee to probe beneath the surface to discover complex interactions and relationships in a way that creates mutuality and equality. (Mary Kay Sweeney, 1990)

Dr. Sweeney’s action research project for her dissertation was on “The politics of compassion—Psycho-social dynamics of food distribution.” This action research project explored the complex dynamics operative in the distribution of food from the points of view of both recipients and providers. A cross-section of the processes, products and participants in community-based human service agencies was examined to determine the elements of compassion in local food distribution programs. Written and oral surveys and interviews were conducted for the purpose of eliciting a wide range of responses. The results indicated that the formation of food policy occurs at a very local level and that this formation is the result of complex human interactions based on psychological, cultural and social dynamics. This project demonstrated, among other things, a high level of awareness of the elements of compassion in food distribution as reported by recipients. Providers and recipients alike have an internalized “worthiness scale” by which people are judged as being deserving or undeserving. Food itself is a multitiered symbol. For providers it may be symbolic of power and control, for recipients it may indicate dependence and disenfranchisement. The distribution of food can also be an act of charity which keeps justice at a safe distance.

Compassionate and awakening living by Nicholas Bruss

At the end of his doctoral studies, Nicholas stated that:

The interviews I conducted for my dissertation are put into action in my private practice [as a licensed counselor]. This occurs in several ways. First, conducting and writing about the interviews encouraged me to bring more spirituality into my private practice. This includes facilitating inquiry practices that aimed at reconnecting clients with their true Self, as well as telling stories from spiritual contexts. The interviews also increased the call to bring more of my Self into the room with clients. They emboldened my fierce compassion, a willingness to be even more impacted by my clients and to unleash more rawly the response that ensues. The interviews inspired me to by myself more with clients and share my authentic responses. (Nicholas Bruss, 2017)

Dr. Bruss’ action research dissertation was “Awakening Compassion: Toward Compassionate and Awakening Living.” This dissertation was the investigation of “compassion” and “awakening” as historical concepts and as practices in emerging contemporary mental health care, as well as personal growth. The dissertation began with descriptions of trainings, readings, and conversations in which the student learned about the topics of compassion and awakening. A selective literature review was conducted which explored several main questions, including how “compassion” has been defined and applied in fields such as evolutionary biology, psychology, and religion/spirituality. The review concluded by describing knowledge gaps, as well as scientific and cultural challenges—related to applying theories and practices related to “compassion” and “awakening” to clinical work in private practice as a therapist, as well as community-based meditation and personal development classes designed and coordinated through the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called “Compassion LA.” This project further explored the knowledge gaps, as well as cultural and scientific challenges discovered in the literature review, through dialogue with field consultants, including psychologists and meditation teachers, and through a nine-question semi structured interview with 15 consultants and a second interview protocol designed in survey-form was offered to a convenience-sample of former students of Compassion LA classes, in order to assess their experiences of the classes.

Gender differences in childhood anxiety by Suzanne Quijano

Ms. Quijano had previously earned her Bachelor’s degree at Stanford University and her MBA at UCLA, and then at the end of her WISK studies, had this to say about the value of transformative action research perspectives and qualities as embedded in the learning environment at WISK:

[I had] permission and encouragement within the WISK community to think critically about our world and society rather than just accept “what is.” In many of my personal and professional circles, I often find myself being the only one who takes issue with social systems and practices, especially when it comes to the area of children, education, and social equity ... this approach added richness to each topic because I was encouraged to look at differing perspectives and alternative points of view that bring “industry knowledge” into question. Not only has it been a delight to learn in this type of environment, but it has also pushed me to become aware of social issues that I had previously ignored or accepted without question. Undoubtedly, this experience has served to make me a better therapist, not to mention, world citizen. (Quijano, 2016)

Ms. Quijano’s action research project for her Master’s thesis was “An Exploration of Gender Differences in Ghildhood Anxiety.” This project was an in-depth study of the topic of childhood anxiety and gender issues. It involved a review of the literature, as well as some original data collected by Ms. Quijano. This thesis served to develop an area of emphasis in working with anxious children and their families, and the related problems, symptoms, and needs of the population served by MFT’s (Marriage and Family Therapists). Specific elements of the study looked at gender differences in the expression of childhood anxiety. The study included a review of industry literature on early education, gender difference, and anxiety in school-aged children, as well as exploratory interviews on these subjects with teachers, school counselors, and parents of anxious children. The study explored the various expressions of childhood anxiety and how it can be overlooked in a school setting. Analysis of the research findings was done to further understand what factors lead to the quieter expressions of anxiety being observed and addressed. Finally, a reflective analysis was conducted to evaluate effectiveness of the research and identify areas for further study.

Out of prison and into scholarship and action—Sajad Shakoor

Mr. Shakoor enrolled in WISR’s Master’s program less than a year after spending all 20 years of his adult life in prison, during which time he completed a Bachelor’s degree by correspondence through Ohio University. At the end of his Master’s studies, he stated that:

Thus, since most of my education came by way of distance learning in prison, the faculty at WISR allowed me to take advantage of those unique experiences and incorporated them into the praxis. They developed curricula that benefited from my expertise in the field—an expertise born of my empirical and observational knowledge—and that, subsequently, benefited me through required readings, field research and interviews ... Similarly, personal interviews and field research allowed me to see the topics I was asked to study in a different light, through the reflections of the individuals I was questioning. Their nuanced and personal narratives shaped the research in profound ways. (Sajad Shakoor, 2016)

One of his action research projects was, “A Multi-Agency Approach to Dealing with Crime, Gangs and Education.” This project examined the causes of gang and youth-oriented crime in the inner cities and looked at meaningful ways to mitigate the harmful effects of it. Mr. Shakoor focused on the history and origins of this type of crime, as well as past efforts and current efforts underway to address it. He conducted interviews with local community leaders who were actively involved in programs to reduce gang and youth violence. He also interviewed them about specific ways to increase opportunities for disadvantaged populations that suffer either as victims of this crime or as perpetrators of it. He analyzed the current and former policies aimed at dealing with the problems associated with gangs and youth crime and inquired into ways of developing the best strategies to address this problem. Mr. Shakoor did a comprehensive review of scholarly positions on this issue, as well as studies done on gang and youth violence. In his paper, he proposed an approach to dealing with gang and youth-oriented crime and violence in a way that benefits from cooperation from the various agencies that conspire to impact the lives of people in the inner cities. Finally, he presented a plan to explain how these agencies could collaborate to bring about changes in these situations.

The resilience of survivors of trauma by Makhosazana Fletcher

At the end of her Bachelor’s studies, Ms. Fletcher talked about some of the less tangible outcomes of her learning about inquiry:

I learned about the beauty of being in a school that is not only interested in helping me learn—but also encouraged me to think ‘outside the box’ and see the whole picture of what I am learning about—to see “the forest and the trees” ... I learned to articulate my thoughts better ... My experiences at WISR encouraged me to draw strength from my past experiences, shape my personal goals, and combine these with my new skills and knowledge to design new plans for service projects I am passionate about ... [in other words]

I learned about action research, which I enjoyed a great deal. (Makhosazana Fletcher, 2016)

Her senior thesis was on “Strength and Resilience of Survivors of Trauma and What Empowers Them to Overcome their Challenges.” This thesis was based on an in-depth review of the literature on domestic violence, substance abuse and life-threatening illness and interviews with trauma survivors from each of three groups (domestic violence, substance abuse, and life-threatening illnesses). Ms. Fletcher explained the process of the research, how interviewees were identified, and why the survivors were determined to tell their stories. Themes among the responses of the survivors were explored, and included such examples as involvement in counseling, change in nutrition, having an exercise routine, and openness to alternative healing methods. She wrote about the tough choices the participants had to make to get to where they were.

Suggesting that people inquire and ask themselves questions about "who are you sexually?" by Victoria Reuveni

The comment below was made on a blog about eight years ago from someone who just dropped in one day on an informally scheduled WISR seminar, open to guests from the larger community, and as it turned out on that evening no one else dropped in. This quote below is included with her permission [Dr. Victoria Reuveni, Doctor of Human Sexuality (DHS), Certified Sexological Bodyworker (CSB), Board Member, Lead Educator at Center for Positive Sexuality, Member — American College of Sexologists International (ACSI)]

Who Are You Sexually? By Drvixenne June 13, 2012 (

April 30, 2017: I’ve been meaning to do this edit/note for a while now, but it kept slipping off my radar since this is an older post. The Genderbread Person is highly problematic. You can read more about that here. I have replaced that with the Gender Unicorn which is way cuter and more expansive anyway.

This question came to me during my first class back at the Institute this trimester. It was during a conversation I had in my class of one (yes, small class). John Bilorusky, President at the Western Institute for Social Research -WISR, was my professor for a class on research methods.

Since I am not one who plans to do much in the way of research, we ended up discussing less traditional kinds of research. Beyond that, we really delved into ways of expanding your knowledge. The idea of having blinders versus antennae, meaning very narrow or more open views.

John challenged me to start keeping a journal to foster ideas which would be really helpful in terms of my blog writing. Now, I’ll be perfectly honest, it’s extremely tough to add another thing on top of everything else I need to be doing so I’m not sure how faithful I’ll be to that one. However, even as we were talking, I came up with a great essay type of question which is very open-ended.

Thus, the title of this blog: Who are you sexually? ...

There are many, many aspects to who we are. Just sticking within sexuality', there are tons of elements that make you you.

Who you are sexually attracted to,

Who you prefer to have relationships with,

Who you like to fantasize about,

What gender you identify as (whether that is or isn’t in line with your biological sex gender assigned at birth, updated July 2020),

What gender you mainly portray yourself as.

And on and on. Gender and sexuality are both more fluid than you might realize. Each day is a new one where you can decide which element of yourself you wish to share with the world. In the end we are all human and share similar experiences despite where we fall on some predetermined scale. YOU define who you are and what your interests are.

So, challenge yourself to try something new. Read a new sexy book. Write your own sexy story. Fantasize ...

Improved prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect in the State of Wyoming by William Heineke

Bill Heineke’s doctoral dissertation was an action research project aimed at making needed improvements in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect in the state of Wyoming. His dissertation was “Kid’s, Clinicians, and the Courts: The Multidisciplinary Treatment Team’s Individual, Group Member, and System Problems in Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect, 2009.” It was a study of a complex and sophisticated subculture, the multidisciplinary treatment team in cases of child abuse and neglect. The action research study evolved out of an effort to develop an instrument for the assessment of parent risk for re-abuse and re-neglect of children. The study focused on the transformation of the risk assessment instrument into a manual for the multidisciplinary treatment team that would enable effective evaluation and case management decisions and related recommendations to the court in cases of child abuse and neglect. This action research study had the dual focus of the creation of the manual and to bring about a change, increase, in the efficacy of the multidisciplinary treatment teamwork. The research included presentations of the manual to mental health clinicians, attorneys, judges, social workers, court-appointed special advocates, and school social workers and counselors in groups and individually. Findings of this research were shared with multidisciplinary treatment teams and the courts, in a manual to make informed assessments of the parents, strengths, weaknesses, treatment needs, capacity to parent, progress, and risk. This assessment protocol in the manual has been referenced in parent assessments. Recommendations were made of how to incorporate the manual into undergraduate, graduate, and continuing professional education to prepare professionals for participation in multidisciplinary treatment teams. The conduct of this study involved action research methods with written critiques/reflections on the use of these methods.

In addition, Bill had a second action research project aimed at his ongoing work with high risk children and their families. Up through the summer of 2009 he had developed and sustained a summer program for 24 years which provided a much-needed continuity of care for this population. He developed a treatment manual for this program which included all forms for administering the program, conducting treatment, and networking with schools, social services, the courts, and private providers.

In the ensuing years, his efforts have continued to make a difference. Reporting on this, in January 2019 he wrote the following letter to WISR:

Giving you a bit of an update with some surprises coming totally unexpectedly.

I was the recipient of three awards. One was the Health Care Provider of the Year given by the Campbell County Health Care Foundation. The second was the Legend Award by my employer, Campbell County Memorial Hospital. The third was one of ‘Ten Who Made a Difference’ awards by the Gillette News Record. The work/research I did at WISR was a major contribution to my helping children. The summer program treatment manual I did at WISR I presented at a research and treatment conference in 2014 for early interventions for children giving copies to all that attended. It was six months later I learned the manual was the basis for starting similar programs in New Zealand and Ohio. My WISR experience is one I continue to rely upon as a strong source of strength and worth in the field. The summer program is now in its 34th year. (William Heineke, 2019)

Somatic experiencing and art therapy by Cindy Perkiss

Cindy Perkiss especially appreciated about action research:

the encouragement to reflect on my current knowledge, to think about how to organize and synthesize ideas, and to use stories and examples to draw readers into the experience of the subject matter and its relationship to the human condition. (Cindy Perkiss, 2018)

Her action research project for her dissertation built on and advanced her professional practice as a licensed therapist. It was on “Somatic Experiencing and Art Therapy— Clinical Applications and Professional Training.” She studied how Somatic Experiencing (SE), a mind-body treatment for trauma and other stress disorders, and art therapy, might effectively work together for the treatment of trauma and the possibility of post-traumatic growth. She also focused on how professional education for interested clinicians can be developed using this blend of treatment modalities. Her main research questions were on what is unique about the combination of SE and art therapy, current relevant clinical practices, and the development of professional trainings for clinicians interested in the use of SE and art therapy. The action research centered around three areas: the creation and implementation of a training about traumatic grief; the writing of a chapter on traumatic grief for an upcoming book on creative approaches to grief therapy; attendance at the Expressive Therapies Summits in New York City to participate in art therapy workshops and observe how art was being presented in trainings geared to a wide audience of clinicians; and interviews with 16 clinicians (SE and non-SE therapists) about the use of artwork and SE in their clinical practices. An additional question explored whether a phase-based model of trauma treatment may be a useful way to conceptualize treatment, weave together art activities/directives for each phase, and provide professional training for clinicians. The main findings from the research included a better understanding of what is unique and powerful about the blend of SE and art therapy, a rich and varied compilation of art related activities/directives, support for the use of a phase-based model of treatment early in the training of professionals, and a greater recognition of the need for trauma informed treatment in the field of grief counseling and a better understanding of the experience of grief for trauma therapists.

African American scholarship, activism, and culture by Oba T'Shaka

In hrs end of program evaluation essay, Dr. Oba T’Shaka, who at the time was Chair of Black Studies at San Francisco State, wrote in great detail about his perspective on the value of action research, and its relevance to African American culture, scholarship and activism.

A key reason that I selected WISR for work on my doctoral program was because it placed a strong emphasis on the need for participatory research. This emphasis was important to me for a number of reasons. First, I believe that the wisdom, experience and insights of everyday people is of primary value in the research process. In fact, people play a primary role in helping creative scholars, who are concerned about social change to formulate their ideas. Traditional graduate programs place more emphasis on the quantity of the data then on the quality of the ideas that are being put forward. Participatory research on the other hand, recognizes that the experiences of community people are invaluable. This system offers positive suggestions for empowering people, through involving them directly in the research process.

The participatory research process accords with my own movement background. My best ideas, in fact the topics that are now the center of my research and writing, have come from my participation in community struggles for social change. The Art of Leadership Volume II [my dissertation] grows out an intense process of interaction with community people, over a 32-year process. As I have noted in my introduction, research methods section and conclusion, my most valuable insights were gained through a two-way process of interaction during these periods of community struggle. So, the WISR research method was one that I embraced because it accorded with my own experiences. This process has been particularly invaluable to me because it places a greater emphasis on creativity, rather than the mere recital of data.

Another reason that participatory research has been important for me is because it is consistent with my Afro-centric thrust in research, writing, teaching, speaking and organizing. Traditional research programs place a great emphasis on data collection processes that stifle creativity. Afro-centric scholars who have been trained in the traditional data creation systems find themselves in the contradictory position where they are putting forward Afro-centric ideas while using restrictive Euro-centric research methods. The data bound research methods along with the dry academic terms that go along with it, robs the research of an Afro-centric vitality'. Put another way, as Dr. Nathan Hare observes, “you can’t overturn an oppressive system of thought if you use the same methods of research and thinking.” Participatory research is one useful tool in a liberatory research process, because it says that the experience of everyday people, and the experience of the researcher has a validity in and of themselves. Afro-centric research and writing needs to pay special attention to African and African-American people’s thinking and experiences because our culture is first and foremost an oral culture.

The core of African-American culture is African-American folk culture. African-American folk culture arises from the day to day lives, thoughts, songs, and sayings of African-American people. W.C. Handy the ‘Father’ of the Blues, gained his musical material from everyday Black folks as they worked on the docks, picked cotton, sang in their churches and worked on prison road gangs. Handy’s songs were popular because they reproduced sounds produced by' Black people every day. The St. Louis Blues and the Memphis Blues stand as blues classics because they reflected Black speech patterns, and African rhythmic patterns. Handy discovered through living with Black folks, that the things that were most moving in African-American music were beats that were African-based, such as the Rumba. The Rumba beat, an African derived beat popular in the Caribbean and Latin America, was central to the Memphis Blues. Handy could only understand the power of this beat by observing how Black people perked up when this beat was played while they were dancing. What Handy’s work, and the creative work of numerous African-American cultural workers demonstrates is that every day African-American people are a creative wellspring. From everyday working, often poor. Black people come one of the two indigenous cultures in America today. The other indigenous culture of America is the culture of the American Indian. What is particularly important about the culture of the Blues is that it comes from the souls of Black folks. It comes from the daily lives of African-American people, and it is particularly mirrored in the hardships of everyday life. Handy’s best blues songs were those that reflected on his hard times, when he had to sleep on the streets. It was on the streets that Handy heard the most beautiful music he had ever heard.

The Black thinker has the task to reproduce on the philosophical plane what our musical pioneers have created on the cultural plane. Like Handy, if the Afro-centric thinkers are to develop creative liberating systems of thought and action, then they must draw from the core themes of the African-American experience, an experience that is a unique part of the African experience. (Oba T’Shaka, End of Program Evaluation, WISR, 1991)

Creating a foundation for decades of scholarship, practice and leadership in the field of trauma by Anngwyn St. Just

After completing her Master’s degree at WISR, and prior to beginning work on her WISR doctorate, Ms. St. Just said this:

WISR’s capacity to inspire became increasingly evident to me as I struggled to meet their requirements for 3 social action research project. I am an intuitive person who is not fond of “objective,” “scientific,” and strictly quantitative projects. I was quite certain that I was not interested in conducting any sort of research study involving those who had suffered overwhelming life experiences because the process seemed likely to retraumatize or at least be experienced as invasive and disrespectful. Undertaking the research project was, therefore, a painful and difficult prospect and I felt very resistant. But with sympathetic guidance and support, however, I came to realize that social action research offered a new model for uncovering valuable information that was entirely compatible with my concerns about respect and re-traumatization. I have since come to understand the method as a potentially useful tool for the work that I am doing. I completed my research with an entirely different viewpoint from where I began and was grateful for the depth and richness of the experience. I am actually looking forward to the research necessary for the PhD with great enthusiasm. (Anngwyn St. Just, End of Program Evaluation, WISR 1992)

Subsequently, Dr. St. Just did her doctoral action research dissertation on “Wilderness as a Therapeutic Tool in Healing Post-Traumatic Stress Responses.” The abstract she wrote for the dissertation is as follows:

This thesis explores the rationale and potential for using the natural world in healing post-traumatic stress phenomena (PTSD) in those who have suffered overwhelming life experiences. Beginning with bibliographical research, the student explores the history of the idea of using the natural world as a long-standing tradition in many cultures. This raises the question for the modern therapist of whether this modality can be demonstrably useful in the treatment of PTSD, and if so, how and why does it work. After serving as a participant observer and staff member in a Wilderness Recovery Program, the student endeavored to find ways of translating speculation about the meaning of wilderness recovery into specific research questions which became central to the action research study done during her psychology practicum experience. The study concludes that wilderness can serve as a cost effective, low maintenance, therapeutic tool in post-traumatic stress recovery. It also became clear that program design was equally effective in promoting traumatic re-integration. (St. Just, 1994)

After completing her dissertation, Dr. St. Just drew on her WISR studies and action research projects to write her first book [available at: com/Relative-Balance-Unstable-W orld-Education/dp/3896705407] (St. Just, 2006). The summary of the book states that

“The time has come,” writes Anngwyn St. Just, “to expand our understanding of trauma to include the kinds of overwhelm that extend beyond a traumatized individual. If we are to meet oncoming challenges of natural and man-made disasters, war, terrorism and other forms of violence, new paradigms are needed.” Dr. St. Just urges her readers to awaken to a realization that trauma is a global issue and to an urgent need to develop international, culturally appropriate, cost-effective trauma education and recovery programs based upon easily transmitted concepts. This book offers a compelling invitation to expand current concepts of trauma to include Nature, shamanic wisdom, cross cultural, nonverbal, body- oriented methods, and an appreciation for the healing power of community.” (St. Just, 2006)

Since then, Dr. St. Just has continued her scholarly, professional activism—in addition to her worldwide work in the field, she has written another ten books ( ing=UTF8&node=28.3155&offset=0&pageSize= 12&searchAlias=stripbooks& sort=author-sidecar-rank&page=l&langFilter=default#fonnatSelectorHeader).

Personal storytelling for adult literacy by Richard Allen

In his evaluation essay at the end of his WISR doctoral studies, Richard Allen, who was then well into his 60s, wrote:

I have been interested in people and their stories for almost all of my life. A major function of storytelling is depicting the actual or imagined consequences of what people did in the past and what they do in the present in pursuit of their desires. Another function is imagining, predicting, or prophesying what the consequences will be in the future if people pursue certain desires. The language art of story without doubt is one of the most important universal and ubiquitous artifacts of “humankind.” Arguably, story is the most important form of knowledge for most people worldwide. Therefore, for the good of individual and collective life, there is always a story to be told and that must be told, completed, and resolved about the negative and positive consequences of people’s pursuit of desire(s) ... At the Western Institute for Social Research (WISR), I have not only been allowed, but I have been encouraged to explore my thinking, feelings, and beliefs about the function of story in general and my and other people’s personal stories in particular. While I focused on African-American stories of struggle and liberation, I am committed to multicultural freedom and joy as is WISR. Thus, I was encouraged to investigate, despite the possible costs and dangers, how my love of stories and my belief in the power of stories might beneficially intersect with the stories of others in the areas of our mutual interests and concerns. Generally, my concern and interest and desire is for me and all of us to struggle for human and humane self-knowledge, liberation, wisdom, and bliss ...” (Richard Allen, End of Program Evaluation, WISR1998)

Dr. Alien’s action research dissertation was “Fighting to Finish: Personal Storytelling in a Public Library Adult Literacy Program,” and it resulted in a book by that title published six years later (Allen, 2004).

The pressure to drop out of adult literacy programs can be extreme for many learners, especially minority learners, trying to cope with personal, family, financial, and health problems. When learners drop out, their volunteer tutors-upon whom many programs depend-may suffer a drop in morale, or worse, may resign. These problems can be a major challenge for many programs. Fighting to Finish presents an innovative, effective, theory based, but tutor friendly method devised to encourage learners’ persistence and perseverance, and to strengthen the training, preparation, and retention of tutors. The method employs learners’ personal stories or oral histories to develop learners’ literacy abilities, to problem solve, and to manage conflict. It enhances learners’ determination to achieve their literacy and educational goals. Learners’ efforts help tutors become more inspired and motivated, and thus more committed to the program. Fighting to Finish explains and illustrates how this method can be easily adapted by adult literacy programs and used by their volunteer tutors for the benefit of their learners and themselves. key words=fighting+to+finish&qid= 1588034897&sr=8-12)

A self-healing guide to recovery from the trauma of auto accidents by Diane Heller

Dr. Heller’s dissertation involved an in-depth analysis of years of clinical observations and case studies, to develop key insights, theories and principles of practice, and resulted in the following book: Crash Course: A Self-Healing Guide to Auto Accident Trauma and Recovery (Heller & Heller, 2001).

Trauma following automobile accidents can persist for weeks, months, or longer. Symptoms include nervousness, sleep disorders, loss of appetite, and sexual dysfunction. In Crash Course, Diane Poole Heller and Laurence Heller take readers through a series of case histories and exercises to explain and treat the health problems and trauma brought on by car accidents, (

The oral histories of an untold story of civil rights activism in the 1960s by Jake Sloan

In conjunction with his doctoral studies, and also based on many years of doing interviews and gathering oral histories with fellow African American co-workers, who in the 1960s filed an employment discrimination law suit against the U.S. Navy, Jake Sloan wrote the book Standing Tall: Willie Long and The Mare Island Original 21ers (Sloan, 2017). The book chronicles from the past and analyzes for the future the actions and lessons of this previously not so well-known landmark civil rights event from the 1960s.

Standing Tall: Willie Long and The Mare Island Original 21ers is the story of how 25 men stood up, stood tall and filed a complaint against long-entrenched racial discrimination at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in the 1960s In writing Standing Tall: Willie Long and The Mare Island Original 21ers, Jake Sloan assumed literary leadership in telling a story of the quest for economic and social justice for African American workers who were employed at Mare Island. The book stands as a testament to sacrifice, the value of organization, solidarity and risk associated with speaking up. The book acknowledges the courage and resolve that is indicative of the struggle for justice for African American people. The work is essential for the realization that there are those who attempt to tell the story of African American people but what they produce is biased, grossly distorted, triumphalism/revisionist and tantamount to fomented misconceptions. The work contributes to the history of this country from the standpoint of telling a story that is not well-known, but bears witness to the need for standing up for one’s rights, the critical importance of leadership, using the approach of any means at hand as tools and the need to have a cogent agenda in the quest for equality. As part of the war industry, the more than 1,000 African American workers on Mare Island were confronted with racial discrimination in working conditions, unequal pay, hiring, training and advancement while the federal government and the larger society spewed platitudes about democracy, liberty and equality manifesting a glaring contradiction. The book confirms that freedom is not free and shows the value of collective action as opposed to individualism. In many ways, working at Mare Island meant good jobs. Conditions for those in the production shops were usually much better than those found in the private sector for similar work, especially in the building trades. However, there had been growing dissatisfaction with the status quo among a small but growing group of the African American workers. They were tired of being paid less than whites for performing the same work. They were tired of being supervised by whites that they had trained. They were tired of being tired, as the old saying goes. It was not easy to organize on the Shipyard. They were up against entrenched thought about the roles and expectations of African American in the workplace. This thinking was entrenched in the minds of both whites and many, many African Americans on the Shipyard. In fact, they sometimes had as much resistance from reluctant and fearful African Americans as we had from whites. Many workers, both white and African American, had come from the South where such discrimination was the norm. The organizing was hard, dangerous. If the actions had become known to the leadership at Mare Island, they would have been fired. Over the years after the filing of the complaint, progress was made, but there were still challenges when the shipyard closed. For one thing, the leadership at the shipyard never admitted to discrimination. Everything was blamed on misunderstandings. Also, ironically, some of the people who refused to sign with the group, or even join later, received some of the best promotions. Across the country, there are unmarked graves of unsung heroes and heroines who represent countless acts of resistance which stand as testaments to the enduring struggle of African American people in the struggle for equality. The book is a monument that brings to light a virtually unknown group of men who made history by standing up for what was right and just. (https://store.bookbaby.eom/book/standing-tall watch?v=537ATDKvDzI/ 1-Courage-Activism/dp/1540310817/)

Learner-centered professional training on the somatic effects of developmental trauma by Kathy Kain

Kathy Kain used her WISR studies to build on and extend her knowledge from many years of practice and inquiry in the field of somatic therapy. Further, she was especially focused on trauma survivors, and on the training of professionals wishing to learn more about this field. One of her action research projects during her doctoral studies was, “An Exploration of Experiential Learning for both Participants and Trainers” (May 2013). She researched the experiential learning process in which trainers were engaged during the development of training curricula, which in turn supported experiential learning in those whom they were training. Ms. Kain observed the collaborative dynamics which arose with the co-trainer during the development phase of the program, as well as in the initial teaching phases. As an extension of those observations, she also observed how the trainers’ collaborative style influenced the experiential learning process of the students.

Kathy Kain’s doctoral dissertation was “Learner-Centered Curriculum Development for Professional Training on the Somatic Effects of Developmental Trauma” (2018). This qualitative study using action research methods sought to identify the key elements which contribute to an effective cross-disciplinary professional development training program (focused on the somatic effects of developmental trauma) which accurately reflects the latest theoretical models and research from those disciplines, and is also professionally useful. As the research progressed, a new direction emerged which precipitated a new cycle of action research for the development of a book aimed at a lay audience, articulating a specific model of working with developmental trauma. Using collaboration with fellow professionals, a pilot program was developed and evaluated via post-training interviews with 27 participants. The training structure was then revised, and the program presented for additional cycles, with additional participant feedback received. The book project then evolved in parallel with the training program. The results of this study suggested that there are five elements that positively contribute to both the effective development of a training program and of a related book: (a) collaboration is essential, particularly in a cross-disciplinary program, (b) attention should be paid to assumptions made about previous knowledge of participants/readers, (c) a cross-disciplinary approach enhances professional skillfulness and understanding, (d) material that elicits strong personal responses to the content must account for that in the learning structure, and (e) a cross-disciplinary approach combined with experiential learning supports learner transitions to greater levels of skillfulness, but emotional engagement must stay within a manageable range.

Dr. Kain’s dissertation research contributed significantly to the following book that she co-authored and that was published just prior to the completion of the dissertation: Nurturing Resilience: Helping Clients Move Forward from Developmental Trauma—An Integrative Somatic Approach (Kain & Terrell, 2018). The book summary is:

A practical, integrated approach for therapists working with people (both adults and children) who have been impacted by developmental trauma and attachment difficulties. Kathy L. Kain and Stephen J. Terrell draw on fifty years of their combined clinical and teaching experience to provide this clear road map for understanding the complexities of early trauma and its related symptoms. Experts in the physiology of trauma, the authors present an introduction to their innovative somatic approach that has evolved to help thousands improve their lives. Synthesizing across disciplines—Attachment, Polyvagal, Neuroscience, Child Development Theory, Trauma, and Somatics—this book provides a new lens through which to understand safety and regulation. It includes the survey used in the groundbreaking ACE Study, which discovered a clear connection between early childhood trauma and chronic health problems. For therapists working with both adults and children and anyone dealing with symptoms that typically arise from early childhood trauma—anxiety, behavioral issues, depression, metabolic disorders, migraine, sleep problems, and more—this book offers fresh hope. ( com/gp/product/B074S68WSX/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkm_pl_i0/)

Inquiring into how people change, impasses and turning points by Rosemary Christoph

For the action research done in her doctoral dissertation, Rosemary Christoph created a research project into how people come to make crucial change in their lives, turning points in their process that put them now on a different page. She outlined and analyzed an extensive review of the literature and research into the phenomena of “Change,” both as a process in science and life, and in psychology. She had observed in her work with children and families over the previous 15 years at La Familia in Hayward how change comes about in the lives of disturbed kids and families, and she wrote up six case studies of different children and their processes. Dr. Christoph analyzed her own developmental history as far as this question went. She then developed a questionnaire that focused upon open-ended questions that enabled 16 interviewees to reveal their turning points in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. In the process it became clear that many people had faced impasses, that somehow turned into turning points, so addressing what created and maintained an impasse, and what enabled people to move toward “turning over a new leaf’ and change, was the focus of this research. The research also looked at religious turning points, the philosophy of the I Ching (the Book of Changes), scientific parallels, Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, fractals and change in physical systems, social change, and spiritual change. She used case studies, stories, anecdotes, proverbs, fair)' tales, and interviews, analyzing the interviews to approach this topic from a multitude of perspectives, including right and left brain ways of seeing events and impasses, as well as the turning points that can arise in a seemingly spontaneous healing process.

Here is her reflective analysis of the process written soon after completing the doctorate:

The dissertation was a sprawling burgeoning task that threatened at some points to never end. I kept finding new pennutations, new insights, new avenues of approach. Even as I was ‘finishing’ I kept finding new people to interview, new questions to ask, shifts in approach that generated new streams, new branches.

As I shifted into focusing more on Impasses, rather than Turning points, I began to think about what kinds of Impasses impact a life, and what strategies people employ to address them, or circumvent them, or how they sometimes traverse them without really engaging. Then, what is real engagement? When is avoidance of an Impasse functional? When is it a philosophic stance, of “I don’t know what’s going on here, I must just persevere no matter what..?” What is the difference between mastering an Impasse, and merely enduring? Is Turning the only way to really see an Impasse ripening into a new reality?

I had begun with observations of myself, of places where I had been blocked, and then seemed at a certain point to turn the corner, so to speak. But there were also places where I still felt stuck and at Impasse. I saw too in the children and families I worked with, how things would gather to a boiling point, a time of Phase transition, a Turning point. But they too had certain areas which would seem impervious to impact, where the problem might decrease in size and significance, but would still continue in another form. My inquiry began with questions about these things, such as: What constitutes an Impasse? What makes it last and not yield to change and time? How do people reach a Turning point? From which time everything is ‘different?’ How is a change or shift maintained? What is the process of change, of turning? ...

I wrote about my own life, then the lives of kids and families I had worked with. Then I decided to do an interview process with a group of adults to find out how they experienced their own Turning points over their lifetime. I began with my focus on Turning points, with specific questions, then as I conducted my interviews I began to make my questions more open-ended, to let people tell me how they saw their own process, rather than have my questions influence what they said or what they would think was important. As the interviews continued, I shifted toward asking more questions about what Impasses people had experienced in their lives and how and when they had resolved them. I found that some people seemed to move intuitively, or precipitately through crises, where other people moved step by step, inexorably moving forward. Some people’s process could be called more right brain, creative, wholistic, following patterns, leaps, back and forth. Others seemed to move sequentially, more left brain, as if up a stairway or ladder. Each person’s life had its highs and lows, its challenges and crises, its times of smooth and flowing waters.

Looking at change as a process led me to some ageless sources, from Buddhism to the Bible, from the I Ching and Chuang Tsu to Heraclitus and St. Augustine, from Gandhi and Martin Luther Kingjr. to Gurdjieff and Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama. Then too contemporary Psychology from Freud and Jung to Object Relations and Behaviorism had their own take on Impasse, Change and Turning points. Science and chaos theory presented insights that seemed as applicable to psychology as to physical systems.

I found the process of doing the interviews exciting, whether over the Internet at a distance, or over the phone, or in person. Some interviews were completed in a single afternoon, some took many evenings as the story of a life unfolded. Some interviews took many back and forth questions to cull the story, some people told their stories as if telling a novel out loud. Writing out things long hand, and then typing and editing later was tedious but I watched the dissertation come together as the months progressed. By the time I had finished, the outcome was more than a series of essays, it actually seemed like a huge book, that contained three books. The first was an autobiography. The second book was a book of stories/case studies of kids and families I had worked with. The third book consisted of the interviews, an analysis of each interview, and a theoretical discussion of Impasse, Change and Turning points. (Rosemary Christoph, End of Program Evaluation, WISR, 2004)

Mindfulness-based practices for the well-being of people with chronic health conditions by Larry Berkelhammer

In reflecting on his doctoral studies just after finishing. Dr. Berkelhammer wrote:

For me, the single most valuable learning in this program was that I learned how to do really good qualitative action research. I also feel grateful that it allowed me to create a mindfulness-based behavioral medicine program to help people living with chronic medical conditions to improve quality of life and health. It also helped me create a psychoeducational program to help well people stay well.

My goal in the [dissertation] action research project was to generate hypotheses and understanding rather than quantitative, generalizable data. The two most boring academic courses I ever took were the two required statistics courses in my Master’s degree program (not at WISR). I don’t remember those courses ever mentioning qualitative research. It was all quantitative. In my WISR qualitative action research project, I was interested in processes and meanings.

My understanding of qualitative research is that it leads to hypotheses that can then be tested using quantitative research, and that both are valuable, but serve very different functions. I also have come to understand that qualitative analysis has validity without ever subjecting it to quantitative analysis.

While working on this project, I got into a conversation with a few physicians about quantitative and qualitative research. I met with, and spoke to each physician separately, yet their responses were identical. All of them told me that there is no place in science for anything unless you subject it to quantitative analysis. They agreed with me that we could use qualitative analysis to form new hypotheses, but they all insisted that unless you then subject those hypotheses to quantitative analysis, they remain unproven hypotheses, and could not be considered good science. Perhaps there is something to their statements if we limit our discussion to the testing of new pharmaceuticals or new surgical procedures. However, the testing of pharmaceuticals includes placebo arms, and the psychopharmacology and pharmacodynamics of placebos involves complexity theory. Can quantitative analysis explain such bizarre phenomena? I don’t think so. For one thing, the beliefs of the doctors or nurses about the drug or surgery as they administer the treatment have been found to be a confounding variable. Many quantitative research studies involving pharmaceuticals have not been published because the results were too ambiguous. Had they included qualitative research methods, the studies could have provided valuable information, although they still may not have been published, because negative results often do not get published.

In reviewing the interviews I had carried out with psychotherapists, I looked for patterns and themes in the interviewees’ answers and clinical experiences. I compared that information with the information from the literature reviews I had done previously. I wanted to see if those patterns or themes could help me to identify any flaws in the design of my program, which I had previously thought was complete and ready for presentation. This information that came out of the interviews helped me to improve what I had previously thought was a finished product This new information provided additional theoretical validity to the clinical processes that I had designed ... One of the greatest surprises was that as long as I kept changing the interview questions that I posed to clinicians, I could keep getting new data. I discovered that interviewees answered whatever questions I asked. Therefore, by changing the questions, I got new information I previously had not gotten.

... my WISR PhD research was an action research project in which I gathered qualitative rather than quantitative data. I gathered data from very diverse sources in order to generate various hypotheses. Although this was purely qualitative, I proposed some possible explanations for some unexplained quantitative data that appeared in my literature reviews, discussed in the dissertation. (Larry Berkelhammer, End of Program Evaluation, WISR 2011)

More specifically and descriptively, Larry Berkelhammer’s dissertation action research project drew on previous data he had collected through informal interviews with cancer patients at the week-long residential retreats over the three years of his previous psycho-oncology training at the Simonton Cancer Center in Santa Barbara. He reflected on and wrote about the insights from this data, in relation to the other research segments of this project. The second segment of research drew on insights growing out of an April 2009, two-hour workshop to a fibromyalgia support group that met at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. The third segment of the research involved running a weekly group for nine months in 2010, to test a wide range of educational and mindfulness techniques, ultimately leading to the creation of a program of Mind Medicine for Health and Happiness. The fourth segment involved in-depth interviews with clinicians, all but two of whom were ACT psychotherapists and ACT researchers in psychotherapy and in behavioral medicine. The fifth segment related to his ongoing training in contextual behavioral science, and in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which he had studied over the last 10 years, as well as drawing from experience with Buddhist mindfulness practices in the 1970s. The sixth segment related to insights from numerous other trainings, including certification in the Simonton Method, certification in Interactive Guided Imagery from the Academy for Guided Imagery, the Erickson Foundation Hypnotherapy training in Phoenix, training with the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and countless day-long workshops.

In pursuing his dissertation research, Larry Berkelhammer’s basic premise, which is foundational to every aspect of the program he created during his doctoral studies, is that the following factors all positively impact physiology, epigenetics, and health: self-acceptance, self-efficacy, environmental mastery (a sense of control over one’s life), a sense of choice, social support, gratitude, meaning and purpose, the ability to defuse (dis-identify) from private events (thoughts, sensations, and emotions), authenticity, altruism, living by one’s self-identified values, pursuing goals, optimism, resilience, and the ability to ask for what one wants and to say no to what one does not want. These life skills can be developed through the committed daily and lifelong practice of the skill set that his action research studies aimed toward his offering in the form of workshops, classes, and professional training. His dissertation investigated how such daily practice improves happiness and quality of life, which in turn, improves health outcomes.

The findings of the dissertation were used to design presentations, classes, workshops, and trainings ( Throughout these educational offerings, there is an emphasis on heart-felt, interpersonal communication as a way to provide an experience of the daily practices that are foundational to the program. This method of learning is very experiential and requires active participation as well as a commitment to engage in a challenging, daily practice.

His dissertation was published as In Your Own Hands: New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions: Mindfulness-Based Practices for Mastery and Wellbeing (Berkelhammer, 2014). ( our-Own-Hands-Condi tions-Mindfulness-Based/dp/0991243706/)

Researching how to construct a device to aid communication among caregivers and clients, despite language differences or hearing disabilities by Karen Young

The following is a substantial excerpt from the recent term paper Karen Young recently wrote about an action research project during her doctoral studies at WISR ...

As a health educator, a valuable action research project I did was to design and develop a “Communication Board” to facilitate communication between in home care givers and their clients, despite language differences, or hearing disabilities. The ultimate goal was to positively impact caregiver support. With a communication board, the caregiver and client can point to icons, images, or messages, to communicate with one another, especially when the spoken word is not available or not adequate. The Communication Board is currently used for Home Care Aide training and used in homes to support homecare to clients. To develop the Communication Board, I made an inquiry to thirty-five home care providers, regarding the most common Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). What I knew about common activities of daily living, ADLs, from many years of experience, was supported by the research. The responses from the home care providers matched what I thought to be true of the most common ADLs. The following are the details of what I did, and what I accomplished, during this project.

I talked to several home care providers, people who own, operate or work in home care agencies. I explained to the group that I was developing a Communication Board. The homecare providers all thought the Communication Board was a good idea.

I developed a list of fifty caregivers that I contacted via email, text and voicemail, to request their participation in the research. The list included caregivers I know and caregivers that were referred to me by people I know in the homecare industry, who own or operate homecare or residential care agencies. I explained to the caregivers that I was designing a communication board, with images, icons and messages to assist caregivers in their communication with their clients. I told the caregivers I would select about twenty of the most common messages, requests or statements they hear daily in the home care business. I explained I wanted them to provide me with five common or most heard messages like, “I would like water,” “I need my medication,” or “I feel cold,” to put on a communication board. I explained that the client or caregiver could point to a message or icon on the board to communicate needs. I explained the caregiver or client would also be able to write on the communication board with a dry erase maker.

I called the caregivers on my list, until I got thirty-five caregivers who agreed to participate in the research. I gave them instructions on what I wanted and when I wanted their information. I also asked each caregiver their age, there primary language, how long they worked in home care support and the population they usually serve. There were twenty-four female and eleven male caregivers in the research. Nineteen of the thirty-five caregivers had English as a primary language. Thirteen caregivers had English as a second language and the primary languages included Arabic, Cantonese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, and Tagalog. Three students were deaf and communicate in American Sign Language, ASL. As part of the research data collected, I asked the age of the caregivers, the general area they had provided home care services and how long they had been caregivers. I also asked each caregiver to name the populations or type of clients they supported. I asked the questions about age to see if there was a difference in their responses according to the age group. I was not sure if I would need all of the data regarding the caregivers, as part of the research, but I collected the data anyway.

The age of the caregivers ranged from nineteen to seventy-two. All caregivers provided home care support in one of five Bay Area Counties. Each caregiver had a minimum of two years in the field of home care support. I wanted each caregiver in the study to have a minimum of two years of experience as a caregiver. I thought two years as a caregiver would be more than enough experience in supporting clients to provide the responses I requested. All the caregivers had experience with elderly, developmentally disabled and physically disabled clients. I asked the caregivers to email or text their list of five common ADLs, within five days of the request. I planned to contact other caregivers on my remaining list of fifteen caregivers, if I did not get a response from the thirty-five caregivers. Each of the thirty-five caregivers complied with the request and texted or emailed the information I requested, in the given time period.

I asked the caregivers to provide their five most common home care client requests or massages they heard from clients most often. From the one hundred seventy-five responses, I selected a minimum of twenty commons requests or phrases, to put on the communication board.

All of the caregivers were interested in seeing the communication board when it was completed. In five days, I received one hundred seventy-five common ADLs, from thirty-five caregivers.

Once the Communication Board was complete, I sent the final tool, Communication Board and dry erase marker, to each of the participating caregivers. There were no differences in the response according to age or primary language spoken. The responses were all very similar.

The final communication board included the most common ADLs from the caregiver’s responses, and it has twenty-four message blocks, derived from the one hundred seventy-five responses. There were about sixteen most common responses. The list of the most common ADLs are as follows (with some examples of images used):

  • 1. Hungry {image: plate with knife and fork: “I am hungry, may I have something to eat?”}
  • 2. Thirsty
  • 3. Tired/Help to bed {image: bed}
  • 4. Bathroom {image: toilet}
  • 5. Shower/Bath
  • 6. Medication {image: medicine bottles and pills}
  • 7. Too hot/cold
  • 8. Pain/Hurting
  • 9. Nauseated {image: frowning green face: “I am feeling nauseated”: On a scale of 1-5 [5 the most]}
  • 10. Constipated
  • 11. Diarrhea
  • 12. Feeling Dizzy
  • 13. What time is it {image: clock}
  • 14. Call the doctor appointment/question {image: doctor with white coat and clipboard}
  • 15. Make a telephone call
  • 16. Turn the lights brighter/dimmer

Eight of message blocks I designed by looking at common themes from the responses. I made one message block as a list of four preferences. The message block is, I would like: TV, Walk, Music, Drive, and the design was set for the client to point to or circle the preference. I also added a message block that indicates the client can ask the caregiver or the caregiver can ask the client a question. This message block simply has “Message” and ample space to write a message. There is a message block that indicates the need to call 911 and instructions on how to communicate yes and no in ASL. I got all of the artwork from the “non-proprietary” or “no copyright” section of google image.

One of the caregivers shared the Communication Board with a client’s case worker at the Department of Rehabilitation, DOR. The case worker contacted me to see if I would be interested in sharing information about the Communication Board and the Home Care Aide training. I was thrilled to accept their invitation. I was invited by the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) Regional Manager to give a presentation about the Communication Board at the Regional meeting. The regional meeting had DOR case workers from five Bay Area Counties. I gave my presentation to DOR case workers, regarding the communication board and the Home Care Aide training, on June 17, 2019.

After I made the presentation to DOR, I was contacted by the Deaf Counseling, Advocacy and Referral Agency, DCARA. DCARA wanted me to design a curriculum to teach deaf students to become Home Care Aides. They also wanted a train the trainer curriculum for deaf instructors to teach the home care aide course. I agreed to the task, because was I already considering developing a training curriculum for the deaf and hearing impaired. Since I knew I had to get input from the deaf community to design the curriculum for deaf students and the deaf instructor, I thought this would be another opportunity to pursue another action research project. (Karen Young, 2020)


Most likely you found some tiles of this mosaic more interesting, or more relevant to your interests, than others. Still, hopefully the stories have helped you to appreciate the distinctiveness of each one, and the diversity found among all of them. Yet, they only are a very partial glimpse into the ways of what people can experience, and accomplish with, transformative action research. Together, these tiles, these stories, constitute a mosaic to which all of us can add.

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