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Doing Critical Educational Research

A Conversation with the Research of John Smyth


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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Chapter Two: Teachers’ Work




Norman Denzin (2013), commenting on the effect C. Wright Mills had on him as a young scholar entering graduate school, provides a nice entry point for my own reflexive piece on teachers’ work. According to Denzin (2013):

Mills exhorted sociologists to write from their biographies into the spaces of history and culture. He urged writers with the sociological imagination to connect biography and history, to join the personal with the public (p. 1).

What I want to do here is reinsert myself in my historical past, in order to create the conditions to write myself into the present and bring the readers of this book along as well.

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