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A Critical Action Research Reader

Series:

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 This highly diverse collection of previously unpublished and published works offers a sampling of opinions on key theoretical and methodological questions, complemented by a wide range of critical action research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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Part One: Toward an Understanding of Critical Action Research

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Toward an Understanding of Critical Action Research PART ONE Introduction The Contested Terrain of Critical Action Research Theorists have been working for decades to be clear about what type of research might be termed “critical” as well as to be clear about what versions of action research merit that description. While there is some agreement about some things—for example, that any research termed “critical” must have as its ultimate objective greater social equity and justice—there are also many disagreements about other elements. Part 1 is intended to allow readers to build a basic definition of critical action research, to become familiar with some of its many manifestations, and to explore a sampling of related theoreti- cal and practical issues. In Chapter 1, Ben Boog presents his work as a close look at the characteristics of what he terms “action research.” However, many theorists and researchers are likely to understand his description a bit differently, as the editor does—as a basic history and description of “critical action research.” This is true because Boog asserts that the central defining characteristic of what he terms “action research” is the explicit objective of advancing empowerment and social equity. As many other researchers and theorists have noted, however, the term “action research” has in fact often been used to describe other forms of action research lacking any empowering, democratic goal.1 Much of Boog’s discussion, then— especially of contemporary strands of action research—can serve as a general introduction to critical action research...

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