Research is an important and integrated part in APeL’s work. This applies to our support of development processes, in our evaluations, as well as when we train and learn together with participants. Below, we will try to explicate the importance of our research, together with its general content and how it is conducted.
Our view on research
Research is a systematic approach to study, analyse and describe a given phenomenon. It has its base in a theoretical framework which implicates, among other things, the use of well-defined concepts and established methodologies. The research process should be characterized by openness in attitudes, considerations to codes of ethic, as well as continuous documentation and publication. All of this must be coupled with a continuous communication with the research society.
The purpose of our research
At APeL, research is not a purpose of its own. Our research should also contribute to the quality and the sustainability of the development processes. The aim of our research is to give our evaluations a high professional standard in order to produce credible and reliable results.
Our learning activities should build on research findings, and they should also give the participants opportunities for critical reflection.
Our research is designed to serve several functions. Most importantly it should:
- provide coherence and overview of the change processes to the participants, which, in turn, give them better understanding of the preconditions for sustainable change
- show the connection between input and outcome as well as long-term effects
- point out false correlations and circular reasoning
- provide a critical perspective on the development process
- become an antidote to simple solutions and trends.
APeL’s line of research is workplace learning and sustainable development. Among other topics we investigate is how theory and practice can be combined in learning processes, how individual and organisational learning can walk hand in hand, and how co-operation between trade unions and management can be elements in a strategy for sustainable change.
Our research is about how developmental work can be brought about in a more sustainable manner. One example of this is how change processes can be combined with the every-day work. The sustainability of developmental work depends on how it is owned, governed and steered by management or politicians. Both sustainability and dissemination of changes can be supported by collaboration in the form of networks, partnerships and innovation systems.
Other research topics are how gender equality can be achieved in work life and how executives can run a developmental work together with employees. We make assessments of how new concepts, e.g. Lean production, can be implemented in organisations in a way that favours employees, employers and customers.
How we perform our research
APeL’s research is performed together with, not on, the participants, i.e. we apply an interactive research approach. This means that we organise a joint learning process with the participants, in which we collectively try to understand and explain the mechanisms behind sustainable development. The joint learning can be obtained by the means of continuous feedback, presentation of data and results, in collaborative publishing of reports, as well as at dialogue-based seminars and conferences.
Nothing is as practical as a good theory, according to Kurt Lewin. The participants can benefit from a theory which gives a coherent and critical perspective. But we have reformulated the device in the following way: Nothing is as theoretical as a good practice. The researcher can benefit from a joint learning with reflective practitioners. The research can become more innovative and the outcome will thus become more valid and reliable.