I have struggled hard this summer to find the shape of my research proposal. I am studying organisational creativity and innovation. I have been given an opportunity to immerse myself into a messy sticky problem of emergent innovation within education, and yet I have to somehow make it fit neatly into a project. I have to outline a methodology and plan how i will evaluate my intervention. And yet, I am sitting here waiting anxiously to hear if they (the organisation) will let me in to teach some of their children, and if any of the families will talk to me about their pedagogy, and if the government will pull the plug before I can get in there. i know my being there will change the chemistry of the place. I know that they will change me. I don’t know how i can measure my impact, and I don’t know what the outcome will be. But i know that i have found something important for the future of education. And I am exhausting myself trying to find a piece of the puzzle that will stay still long enough for me to claim it as my research proposal. It is like trying to lasso clouds.

And then I found Donald Schon. And he has thrown me a line, and has made it ok, no, important, that I descend into the swamp with little sense of the outcome. He has described my impotence perfectly, and has given it meaning…

“ In the varied topography of professional practice there is a high, hard ground overlooking a swamp. On the high ground, manageable problems lend themselves to solution through use of research-based theory and technique. In the swampy lowlands, problems are messy and confusion and incapable of technical solution. The irony of this situation is that the problems of the high ground tend to be relatively unimportant to individuals or society at large, however great their technical interest may be, while in the swamp lie the problems of greatest human concern. The practitioner is confronted with a choice. Shall he remain on the high ground where he can solve relatively unimportant problems according to his standards of rigor, or shall he descend to the swamp of important problems where he cannot be rigorous in any way he knows how to describe.”

Schon, DA “Knowing in action: The new scholarship requires an new epistemology,” 1995 Change, November/ December, 27 – 34

I could cry.