Values-based self-reflective action research for promoting gender equality: some unexpected lessons
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The idea of using values as a means of guiding our research decisions and judging the validity of our claims of knowledge is well established in literature on the self-reflective genre of action research. Values in action research should always result in virtuous behaviour – to promote the general social good. However, ideas of what constitutes the social good may differ from context to context. This article problematises the notion that ‘good’ values lead to ‘good’ action. Presenting one research project as a case study, I show that the articulation of values does not always result in what I, as a researcher and White, middle-class woman, would recognise as health-promoting action. Yet, the participants view such behaviour as a legitimate means to improve their quality of life, at least in the short term. First, I describe the social and cultural context of the research, before highlighting some value conflicts that emerged, as the participants and I critically reflected on our understanding of more equal and healthy gender relations. It is important to expose such conflicting value interpretations through critical self-reflection, so that researchers and participants can work towards a deeper mutual understanding of how to best address complex social issues such as gender relations in specific social contexts.