Action, Learning and Impact


About this course

This is a double language course NL/EN

Course Content:
In this course, you will learn how to generate impact in a complex societal context using the Action Research (AR) approach. By engaging in two action research cycles, you will contribute to initiating a change in the problem presented by a societal partner. Working closely with local partners or issue owners in the role of co-researchers, you will investigate the underlying assumptions that sustain a perceived problematic situation. You will collaboratively plan an intervention to co-create change, and then execute it together. Reflection on the results follows.

Throughout the entire course, we operate from a location in the city of Utrecht. Participants note that the experiential and "knowing-as-you-go" approach challenges their accustomed learning methods. We encourage you to apply your academic knowledge and skills to begin transforming the situation of a specific target group in the community.

Previous Projects Include:
Highlighting talent in youth (TalenTonen)
Enhancing literacy in a neighborhood (Leesoffensief)
Sustaining swimming projects for newcomers (Buddytobuddy)
Free project choice (Dock)

An alumni quote: "Conducting action research invites you to make associations between various elements, aligning with creativity and contributing to innovative and valuable action."

About Action Research:
Action research is a participatory form of research where you, along with (community) partners, create knowledge directly applicable in practice. The core of action research as a scientific method involves multiple cycles of understanding the situation, planning action, implementing action, and evaluating the action. Utilizing scientific literature from various disciplines aids in reflection and developing different insights into why a particular intervention has or hasn't worked well. This insight forms the basis for planning a new intervention. The organization you work with essentially learns alongside you. In this way, as an action researcher, you contribute to developing validated practical knowledge about changing a specific situation/organization.

Commitments as an Action Researcher:
As an action researcher, you have a dual commitment: studying a societal problem in context ánd actively collaborating with specific groups within this context to create change in what is collectively seen as the desired direction. The course addresses the ethical implications of this commitment and role. Furthermore, this type of research requires a continuous curiosity about what motivates people to behave as they do. This applies to your own actions as well as those of (future) academic professionals.

Diverse Traditions in Action Research:
Action research has a long tradition, leading to a variety of forms ranging from participatory action research for the empowerment of certain groups to appreciative inquiry to strengthen what works in a specific practice. We observe that action research is not only applied in the social domain but increasingly in commercial environments as well. You will study literature on the (methodological) foundations of action research, its diverse manifestations, and the underlying views on learning and knowledge development that form the basis of this specific research method.

Combining with Other Courses:
It is possible to combine this course with the course "I am Utrecht: an interdisciplinary neighborhood project (202200009)" in periods 3 and 4. It is also part of the minor "Community Engaged Learning - Dare and Do: Making Change through Community Engaged Learning", where you work on societal issues in various ways.

Additional Resources:
Podcast episode featuring students discussing their experiences in Action, Learning, and Impact (from the Learning Lab podcast series, episode 2 – the student).

Spotify channel for other episodes in the Learning Lab series by Utrecht University.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this course:

  • Students will gain insight into the dynamics of designing, planning, and implementing interventions within a societal framework in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, adopting the role of co-researchers.
  • Students will be capable of effecting changes in collaboration with societal issue owners and their stakeholders.
  • By going through the empirical cycle of action research, students will be able to articulate and share practical knowledge about these specific changes.
  • Students will recognize and leverage cultural differences in collaboration within the context of their action research.
  • They will be able to inquire into underlying implicit assumptions about learning and change held by societal issue owners/stakeholders from various disciplines.
  • Students will possess the ability to reflect individually and as a team on their own learning experiences.
  • They can discern and apply different perspectives on Action Research in a specific context.

Required prior knowledge

You must meet the following requirements

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Utrecht University.


  • Start date

    2 September 2024

    • Ends
      8 November 2024
    • Term *
      Period 1
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      3 Jun, 08:00 - 21 Jun 2024
    Enrolment starts in 9 days
These offerings are valid for students of TU Eindhoven