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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 This highly diverse collection of previously unpublished and published works offers a sampling of opinions on key theoretical and methodological questions, complemented by a wide range of critical action research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 Two: Critical Teacher Research in Urban Contexts

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Critical Teacher Research in Urban Contexts PART TWO Introduction Teacher Research, Urban Contexts, and the Emergence of the Critical from the Practical Part 2 offers a look at teacher research (frequently called teacher inquiry), a form of action research conducted by one or more practitioners in their classrooms. It has long been advocated as an ef- fective form of professional development—and has also long been criticized by critical theorists and pedagogues as a technical or practical form of action research seeking to find only “what works” in a classroom. For example, “If I do x, will students’ reading test scores improve?” However, teachers can design action research projects serving critical—rather than or in addition to—utilitarian goals. And, as Kinsler points out in Part 1, classroom projects frequently dismissed as technical can be considered empowering in that students who are academically successful within the existing educational system gain valuable cultural capital. An important second argument against dismissing technical classroom research is that it frequently evolves (perhaps as a common developmental progression?) into critical work. As Tripp pointed out long ago, teachers who undertake technical classroom research frequently encounter questions and dif- ficulties in their work that lead them to recognize, and then to oppose, institutional and social forces working against the interests of their students: [F]ew teachers set out to embark upon a socially critical action research project. Rather, they tend to begin with projects that are of a technical or practical nature. They set out to...

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