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Doing Critical Educational Research

A Conversation with the Research of John Smyth

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John Smyth, Barry Down, Peter McInerney and Robert Hattam

John Smyth’s remarkable body of writing, research and scholarship has spanned four decades, and the urgency of our times makes it imperative to look in some depth at the breadth of his research and its trajectory, in order to see how we can connect, extend, build and enrich our understandings from it. Possibly the single most unique aspect to Smyth’s version of critical research is his passion for living and ‘doing’ what it means to be a critical pedagogue. For him, ‘doing’ is a verb that gives expression to what he believes it means to be a critical scholar. This necessitates actively listening to lives; taking on an advocacy position with informant groups; displaying a commitment to praxis; and being activist in celebrating ‘local responses’ to global issues. Smyth’s research is pursued with vigour through the lives he researches, as he interrupts and punctures ‘bad’ theory, supplanting it with more democratic alternatives, which, by his own admission, makes his research (and all research), political.
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About the Authors

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JOHN SMYTH is Research Professor of Education, Faculty of Education & Arts, at Federation University Australia, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. He is the inter-disciplinary Research Theme Leader for Addressing Disadvantage and Inequality in Education and Health. His research interests are in policy sociology, policy ethnography, social justice, and sociology of education.  

BARRY DOWN is the City of Rockingham Chair in Education at Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia. His research focuses on young people’s lives in the context of shifts in the global economy, employment, poverty, and disengagement.  

PETER MCINERNEY is Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Education & Arts, at Federation University Australia, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. His research interests are in forms of school reform that promote social justice.  

ROBERT HATTAM is Associate Professor and Associate Head of School (Research) at the School of Education, University of South Australia. His research interests are in socially critical research, sociology of education, and social justice.

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