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A Critical Action Research Reader

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Edited By Patricia H. Hinchey

Since its inception, action research has been the subject of confusion and controversy. Can something be research if it doesn’t «prove» anything? Can something be action research if it’s a project run by an expert who does not consider participants co-researchers? Questions multiply when the general term is limited to critical action research. What makes critical action research different from action research generally?
Can the action research project of a classroom teacher intended to raise standardized test scores properly be considered critical? Is there a role for advocacy in any enterprise calling itself research? If critical action research is distinct from traditional empirical research, then what formats make sense for sharing results? This highly diverse collection of previously unpublished and published works offers a sampling of opinions on key theoretical and methodological questions, complemented by a wide range of critical action research reports illustrating what various theories look like in practice. The book provides a sketch of the topography of critical action research terrain and illuminates some diverse paths through it.

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Preface

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All words are pegs to hang ideas on.—Henry Ward Beecher While the title of this book may suggest that it’s about critical action research … it’s not. Instead, this book is about ideas about critical action research. And it offers examples of what some ideas about critical action research have looked like when someone, or a pair or group of someones, translated them into practice. Any reader with the most rudimentary familiarity with the term action research already understands that those particular words have been used so many ways to mean so many things that the phrase has become no more than a holograph, a shadow that seems real but that fades at a firm grasp toward its meaning. A tool to leverage change, action research has been used to name such disparate efforts as doggedly driving eight-year-olds toward higher standardized test scores and helping urban youth name and devise ways to resist stereotyping in their neighborhoods. Individual classroom teachers have used it to explore how their classrooms and schools might be made more democratic and relevant; teacher educators have used it to explore how to awaken their students to the effects of institutionalized racism, sexism, and homophobia; university researchers have partnered with communities to identify impor- tant community concerns and to work toward new and better policies. Over time, as a way to signal important differences among such varied versions of action research, theorists have added adjectives to breathe new life into what has become an empty descriptor, so...

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