The present (5th) issue of the e-journal Action Researcher in Education (July 2014) includes seven papers chosen by an anonymous review process. The papers come not only from Greece, but also from Scandinavian countries and from Laos. It also includes five reviews of books relevant to action research that are recently published.
The first two papers focus on the prospect of change when action research is used in educational contexts. This change can concern the teaching practices or the school culture, but also the broader educational structures.
In their paper Reclaiming Action Research from Practice to Policy – the Case of Lao PDR, the authors Keophouthong Bounyasone, Lars Dahlström, Ngouay Keosada και Ann-Louise Silfver, focus on the use of educational action research in teacher’s education in Laos. They present a model of action research development in the prospect of improvement. The authors consider action research as a process of negotiation and interaction between the global and the local, concerning educational knowledge and needs. Though this model teachers can undertake a different / innovative role that challenges current global and local power relations and allows teachers to be critical inquirers in charge of producing knowledge for local, national and global purposes.
The second paper, entitled Bridging the Gap between Teaching and Research on Science Inquiry: Reflections based on Two Action Research Projects, discusses the issue of the teaching of sciences and the possibilities for its improvement through the use of educational action research. The authors, Birgitte Bjønness & Gerd Johansen, present us two long-scale action research projects focussing on two main challenges they faced: first, the transition from planning to implementing and to the understanding of any differentiation and second, the combination of various voices in an action research, the researcher’s voice and the teacher’s voice, the theorist’s voice and the practitioner’s voice. The authors’ proposal that has been tested in practice and is presented in this paper concerns the joint development of appropriate tools for use in the classroom of Science, so as to improve teaching and bridge the gap between research and teaching at the same time.
The three papers that follow refer to various aspects of the Greek educational system, underlying the promising prospects that can be created using alternative ways of organisation and inquiry of educational action. They also focus on the difficulties that such projects usually face.
Vaia Mpourelou in her paper A study on Second Chance Schools: Empirical evidence from Muslims of Thrace presents a qualitative research focused on adult education of a very sensitive social group, the Muslim minority of Thrace. The researcher gathered data from interviews with adult learners of the local Second Chance School. Her findings show that this school contributed to Muslims’ socialization and strengthened their self-confidence and self-esteem, while diploma is considered by the Muslim learners an important asset for finding a job. The key issues for the high school quality that were recognized by the learners were: first the very good co-operation between educators and learners and second the flexible and open curriculum of the school that could meet the learners’ needs and prospects.
In his paper The implementation of the Evaluation of Work in Education at Model Experimental Schools: moving from objectives to regulations in the field of Greek educational system, Lefteris Vekris focuses on a serious problem of the greek educational system, its high-centralized and bureaucratic character that place impediments to any innovative effort, even if it is imposed by the authorities themselves. Discussing the case of the Model Experimental Schools (MES), the author refers to the inflexible administrative mechanisms that strangle any expectations that were created at the beginning, when the institutional context of these schools was formed (in 2011). This context seemed to allow these school-units to enjoy a degree of autonomy, to develop their own educational policies on the school-unit level in ways that fully cover the needs of students, educators, and parents. But the Project of the School Self-Evaluation was imposed to MES by the central authorities, showing that the promised degree of autonomy is really limited. In the last part of his paper, Vekris makes a call to the educational community surrounding the MES to act and take initiations in order to fulfil society's expectations for high-quality education.
George Vozaitis, in his paper entitled When students talk about their Internal School Regulations: An empirical study, through the evaluation process of Internal School Regulations specifically focused on how the students of a Junior High School perceive them, tries to combine these regulations with the school culture in a prospect of changing it. The main research question is: How can the shaping and the application of the Internal Regulations affect the student (and school) culture? To answer this question, the author used a questionnaire and interviews with the 15-member student council and the presidents of the classes. He collected data that could reveal students’ attitudes towards the Internal Regulations and any difficulties that resulted from the application of them. The paper concludes with comments on the findings, highlighting students’ community potential to contribute to the change of school culture, under specific preconditions. However, the changes are really slow facing resistances from all the participants in the school.
The two last papers of this issue focus on adult education (especially of future and present teachers) and on the co-operative and reflective processes that can form, according to the authors, the appropriate learning environment for adults.
Sonia Lykomitrou and Sofia Avgitidou, in their paper Dialogical practices in education: A collaborative action research, study the verbal interactions between teachers and children during teacher-organized activities in early childhood education (ECE) and analyze them in relation to the opportunities children have to be involved in dialogical practices. To accomplish their purpose, they conduct a collaborative action research project aiming at the enhancement and improvement of dialogical practices in ECE. This collaborative action research included three individual interviews with teachers prior, during and after the action research intervention, five group meetings and taped recordings of teacher-children’s verbal interactions at different times during the school year. Analysis of the results showed that ECE teachers’ initial understanding and practice of dialogue was related to children’s acquisition of knowledge and the learning of rules such as turn-taking and listening to others, rather than children’s participation in the construction of knowledge. ECE teachers’ initial practices involved more closed than open-ended questions and few opportunities for children to be involved in exploratory talk. However, ECE teachers’ perspectives about dialogue and related practices changed through the course of action research after theoretical and practical support in researching, trying out new practices and reflecting upon them.
In the last paper of the issue, entitled The Project “Adult Education and Alternative Projects of Educational Leadership” and its implicit connection to Action Research: a case study of in-service Headmasters’ training, Chrysa Terezaki tries to underline the prospects that action research can offer to the adult education projects. She presents a very interesting project for in-service head-teachers’ training focusing on the principles and practices of Adult Education. In this context, innovation aims at the transformation of the school-unit into an open learning organization, a community of learning and practice that can act and promote change through co-operation and reflection. The paper concludes with the evaluation of the project that takes the form of a proposal for future teachers’ training projects.
Eleni Katsarou, Assistant Professor, University of Crete
Vassilis Tsafos, Assistant Professor, University of Athens.