By publishing the online journal Action Researcher in Education, we attempt an educational and scientific intervention, suggesting a different approach to the educational action and reserach. We do not claim that publishing a journal on Educational Action Research is an innovation or brings on a brand new perspective.
As an approach, Educational Action Research is an approach that has been scientifically and politically validated by decades of research in many countries, as an alternative way of studying school, educators and their actions, the educational act itself. In Greece, this approach has been put forward as an alternative to the normative and regulative discourse of the positivist paradigm, attracting the interest of both the academia and the educational community. However, so far no journal on educational action research had been published in our country. We believe that by setting up a website and publishing an online journal on educational action research we can contribute to promoting this different approach as a viable alternative to the – often dominant – technocratic logic, while at the same time filling a gap in Greek reality.
We believe that this journal can provide a space for the publication of both theoretical papers on educational research, particularly educational action research and research that reveals and promotes the teachers’ reflection. The journal can also be a forum for dialogue between researchers, thus helping create and sustain the dialogue between teachers researchers throughout the educational sphere, empowering both them and their readers to develop their reflective practice and critical analysis skills, while promoting their professional development. In this way, everyone that shares this different perspective can express and share his/her thoughts, seek and find alternatives, and perhaps pursue a different, more collective action.
Lastly, we chose for this journal to be bilingual, because we hold that this dialogue can, and perhaps must, overcome our personal and national borders. We address an international audience, which is not limited by geographical restrictions, but defined by common scientific and research interests. In today’s globalised world, the dialogue between educators / teachers researchers from various countries can enrich both our thoughts and our actions. In order to facilitate this dialogue, we chose for this journal to be available online, accessible by all.
This first issue of the journal (issue 1/December 2010) has a particular feature: it consists of papers sent by action researchers from various universities, responding to our call. We hope that our readers will respond to the broad invitation of the present issue to the action research community of schools and the academia and send their own papers to be reviewed and published.
This first issue of the online journal Action Researcher in Education includes papers both from Greece and from other countries, such as England, Ireland, Norway, Cyprus and Australia. These papers address various issues pertaining to educational action research, emerging from its implementation throughout the educational sphere, from preschool education to universities.
The first four papers are theoretical, addressing the contribution of action research to the educators’ professional development and the promotion of the interrelated development of theory and practice through action research. The papers also note the difficulties of developing research and reflective practices when conducting action research and investigate the requirements of its qualitative development. Lastly, they present the various types of action research, stemming from different epistemological choices.
More specifically, in his paper “The Educational Action Research and the Teacher”, John Elliot expresses his thoughts on educational action research and its impact on participant educators. In a reflective narration, the author shares his views on action research, drawing on his long action research experience in different fields and various countries. He focuses on the meaning of action research for the participant educators, in terms of the potential offered but also the restrictions and difficulties they may face.
Mary Koutselini-Ioannidou stresses the importance of action research for educators in her paper “Action research as an educational process of training educators and student teachers”. She points out specific elements (realising and changing one’s personal educational theory, collective action, participating in learning environments, reflection) that compose teachers’ professional development through action research. She also refers to the requirements and the role of reflection in the context of action research and the difficulties faced when developing reflective practices.
The quality and determinant criteria of action research are the subject of S. Groundwater-Smith & N. Mockler, in their paper “Speaking of Quality and Research that Counts: Making an Impact on Practice”. The authors investigate the factors that attribute quality to action research. For this purpose, they present a series of questions that could be used for evaluating action research, dealing with the aims and objectives of action research, the data collected and the research process chosen, and the impact it may have on its participants and implementation framework.
In her paper “Epistemological Perspectives in an Approach to Teacher Research”, H. Hiim addresses the relationship between the epistemological basis of educational action research and the way it is actually conducted (its methodology). The author claims that different epistemological admissions lead to different views on the aim of action research, the research methods chosen, and the data to be collected. An interesting point is the methodological possibilities offered to action research, according to the author, by the work of Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Habermas.
The next three papers describe educational action research conducted in different educational frameworks, with equally different objectives. However, their authors draw on the educational action research they conducted to focus on different theoretical issues, such as the cooperation of schools with Universities through communities of practice, the professional development of educators, and the relationship between educational action research and critical ethnography.
In Alexandra Androussou’s paper, “From training educators to creating a community of practice and learning: processes and dynamics”, written with the cooperation of Coralia Agapitou, Paraskevi Vlachou, Athina, Gkotsi, and Marianthi Kalafati, she narrates how she cooperated with this group of educators as a critical friend / university researcher. This cooperation reinforced the relationship between school education and the university, gradually shaping a community of practice and transforming educators to teachers researchers. The paper describes the practices of cooperation that were developed in the process, the questions that remain unanswered and the dynamics of educational action research in the perspective of shaping a network in a reflective framework of action and learning.
Venetia Kapachtsi and Domna Mika Kakana describe a similar cooperation, though explicitly aimed at the professional development of the involved teachers, in their paper “Cooperative Action Research as a model of educator professional development”. This paper presents action research as a model of teachers’ professional development, describing a project of cooperative action research with five teachers and both authors as facilitators. By coordinating, monitoring and collecting research data, the two researchers evaluate how teachers are trained through action research, reflective practices and participatory observation. They draw interesting conclusions on the requirements for fruitful cooperative action research.
In his paper “From Critical Ethnography to Critical Action Research: The continuum of designing educational innovation”, Eleutherios Vekris poses a methodological issue of action research – its relationship with critical ethnography. By presenting a specific research project he organised on innovative practices of teaching Modern Greek (L1) in a High School in Athens, he points out the value and the quality that critical ethnography can attribute to critical action research. The paper reveals the continuum of critical ethnography and critical action research, by pointing out their common elements: the intersubjective – dialectical approach to the field and the action aiming at both empowering the subjects and creating innovation.
The next two papers refer to the importance of narration when conducting and recording action research.
In particular, in her paper “Writing the narratives of social transformation: how do I enable others to speak for themselves?”, Jean McNiff discusses how an action researcher can act as a facilitator, empowering educators/researchers, so that they can narrate their research, shape their own living educational theory, and write it down. Considering that research is a systematic study to be published, she concludes that action research is a process of personal and social change, which is completed by being recorded in writing, stating explicitly and publicly the reasons why it was conducted. It is particularly interesting that the author communicates her own course as a facilitator, through a self-reflective action research presented in the paper. Her personal development and the social changes she brought on with her action are presented through a series of successive action research cycles.
In his paper, “Why write about action research?”, Andy Townsend focuses on the importance of writing and publishing educational action research, arguing that this importance is due to the learning and reflective function of the writing process, while publication functions as a vehicle of dialogue, developing a broader community of action researchers and relevant networks. The author also claims that writing down action research has its own particularities, as it helps the writers realise their perspective, as actor-researchers who participate in the process. In this way, reflection also influences the development of action in an interactive framework.
A similar subject in a broader perspective is addressed by Jack Whitehead, in his paper “Creating An Educational Epistemology In The Multi-Media Narratives Of Living Educational Theories And Living Theory Methodologies”. Through specific examples, the author presents the new epistemology on educational research and educational knowledge by using multimedia narratives. Whitehead claims that utilising communication technologies results in revealing, realising, and disseminating living educational theory. The paper is innovative in that it suggests a way of using video and other digital media in order to complement monomodal narration and increase its potential as a tool of reflection and a means of publishing the action research conducted.
The issue’s last paper refers to the potential offered to action research by being taught at the University. In their paper “The perspective of shaping dynamic learning networks of future educators through action research: the role of initial training at the University”, Eleni Katsarou and Vassilis Tsafos describe a cooperative research programme for teaching action research, developed at the University. After describing how they organised the familiarisation of students with educational action research (with theoretical lectures on action research and on the ways to conduct it, but also with actual participation of the students in action research processes) they present the data of their own educational action research on the potential of such a project for the professional development and progress of future educators, and attempt to interpret the difficulties they faced.
All the papers in the present issue were kindly offered by the authors, who responded to the editors’ call for the first issue of the journal. For this reason, we gratefully thank them. They did more than simply respond to our call; we feel that they endorse our efforts, and their contribution was crucially important in our first steps…
Eleni Katsarou & Vassilis Tsafos