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Roles in Action Research

I read two articles this week, each of which described an AR project, but with very different approaches and, I think, different outcomes. My rough notes on each article are available here (Pedretti) and here (Wakefield).

Pedretti describes an action research project grounded in what I have come to understand as 'participatory' and 'collaborative' action research. They write of the importance of both the theory and the practice of AR and warn against the dangers of hegemonic power structures that result when researchers ignore their perceived role as experts in research. Theory needs to complement practice. As a longtime practitioner in EdTech, this idea reminds me of the practice of dogfooding, or making sure that you actually use the tools that you are promoting or developing. For example, I believe that it is a good thing to avoid perpetuating surveillance capitalism on the web, so I not only encourage people to eschew corporate tech behemoths (Google, Facebook, Amazon), but I also practice avoiding them and use open source tools where possible.

Seemingly contrary to that approach, is the project Wakefield describes where there was a completely top-down approach to AR with the Head Teacher prescribing an AR approach, but not indicating a willingness to perform any relevant actions as a result of the research, and then having the temerity to criticize the project teams for not translating their work into measurable 'progress' (grades).

So it seems to me that the Wakefield article is an example of what happens when Pendretti's warnings go unheeded. The frustration Wakefield describes existed precisely because of the hegemonic structure that went unchallenged.


Pedretti, E. (1996). Facilitating Action Research in Science, Technology and Society (STS) Education: An experience in reflective practice. Educational Action Research, 4(3), 307–327. https://doi.org/10.1080/0965079960040303

Wakefield, S. (2019). A collaborative Action Research project within a data-driven culture: Improving teaching and learning through Social Constructivism in England. In F. Armstrong & D. Tsokova (Eds.), Action Research for Inclusive Education: Participation and Democracy in Teaching and Learning. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351048361-11