Action research for educational reform: remodelling action research theories and practices in local contexts

Bridget Somekh, Ken Zeichner
2009 Educational Action Research  
This paper explores how action research theories and practices are remodelled in local contexts and used to support educational reform. From an analysis of 46 publications from the period 2000-2008, five 'variations' in the globalized theory and practice of action research are identified: action research in times of political upheaval and transition; action research as a state-sponsored means of reforming schooling; co-option of action research by Western governments and school systems to
more » ... l teachers; action research as a university-led reform movement; and action research as locally-sponsored systemic reform sustained over time. A common feature in these 'variations' of action research is the importance each demonstrates of working towards a resolution of the impetus for action with the reflective process of inquiry and knowledge generation, to generate new practices. The paper also offers a framework to enable the analysis of how action research differs in local settings within and across national boundaries. The paper ends by suggesting that the emerging variations of action research in many countries during the period 2000-2008 can be construed as an example of Appadurai's 'globalization from below', in which teacher-action-researchers contribute knowledge and learning from multiple local sites about the process of effective educational reform. Keywords: discursive power of action research; development of action research; 'variations' of action research; framework for analysis; 'globalization from below' Action research, as a proposition, has discursive power because it embodies a collision of terms. In generating research knowledge and improving social action at the same time, action research challenges the normative values of two distinct ways of beingthat of the scholar and the activist. It has been our experience that, when embarking on action research projects in K-12 settings, there is often a suggestion that the term 'research' should be dropped; whereas in higher education settings we have come across similar discomfort with the term 'action'. This can be understood as the discursive shaping of social action in a community by the 'regimes of truth' that control the values and behaviours of its members (Foucault 1972, 131). Working one in the United Kingdom, the other in the USA, we have both consistently resisted these pressures to call action research by another name, instead consciously using its discursive power. It is a characteristic of 'Western' culture that physical work and mental work are seen as the provinces of two different kinds of people.
doi:10.1080/09650790802667402 fatcat:jgnwkl75tfggheis5tmnvg6vcm