Kemmis, McTaggart, & Nixon, 2014

Kemmis, S., McTaggart, R., & Nixon, R. (2014). The action research planner: Doing critical participatory action research. Singapore Heidelberg New York Dordrecht London: Springer.

After you complete the Task for this week (see Modules Class 4) post a brief response that articulates your growing/changing understanding of action research in education (or some aspect of it) in the context of your own research area.

Lewin (1951) likened action research to the work of bomber squadrons in the War: first, there would be a reconnaissance phase in which participants went out to collect initial data, then there would be the formation of a plan, which was then put into action, then more data would be collected to see the effects of the action, and this data would be analysed to see whether the desired effects had been achieved. If not, a new plan would be formulated and enacted, and further data gathered and analysed. The process would be repeated until the desired effects were achieved. (p. 8-9)

Among the approaches to action research summarised below, participatory research and critical participatory action research share the central aspiration that the research should be the responsibility of participants alone, though participants also remain open to receiving assistance from outsiders where it is useful. A key question here is whether and the extent to which the self-interests of such outsiders coincide or conflict with the self-interests of the other participants. In our view, this is a question to be asked by and of all outside researchers and consultants working with participant researchers. (p. 9-10)

Industrial action research

  • consultant-driven
  • workplace democratization

Action Science

  • distincitons btwn 'espoused theories' and 'theories in use'
  • development of reflective practitioners

Action Learning

  • bringing people together to learn from each others' experience

Soft Systems Approaches

  • participants model Systems
  • question the models
  • reimagine possibilities

Participatory Research

  • roots in liberation theology
  • shared ownership of R projects
  • community-based analysis of social problems
  • oriented towards community action

Classroom action research

  • qualitative modes of inquiry by teachers
  • emphasis on teachers' self-understandings and judgments

Critical participatory action research

emerges from dissatisfactions with classroom action research which does typically not take a broad view of the role of the relationship between education and social change. (p. 12)

Current thinking for critical participatory action research focuses on how to create (or recreate) new possibilities for what Orlando Fals Borda calls vivéncia (humane forms of social life) through the revitalization of the public sphere, and to promote decolonization of lifeworlds that have become saturated with bureaucratic discourses, routinised practices and institutionalised forms of social relationships, the characteristic of social systems that see the world only through the prism of organisation, not the human and humane living of social lives. (p. 12)


In reality, action research is rarely as neat as this spiral of self-contained cycles of planning, acting and observing, and reflecting suggests. The stages overlap, and initial plans quickly become obsolete in the light of learning from experience. In reality, the process is likely to be more fluid, open and responsive. For critical participatory action research, the criterion of success is not whether participants have followed the steps faithfully, but whether they have a strong and authentic sense of development and evolution in their practices, their understandings of their practices, and the situations in which they practice. (p. 18-19)


It should also be stressed that critical participatory action research involves the investigation of actual practices, not practices in the abstract. It involves learning about the real, material, concrete, particular practices of particular people in particular places. (p. 20)

critical participatory action research has the goal of helping participants to work together towards making their individual and collective practices meet the criteria of rationality, sustainability and justice—working together to make their practices

  • more rational in the senses of being more reasonable, more comprehensible, more coherent, and more sensible;
  • more sustainable (including for the long term and for future generations) in the sense that they are more productive, more satisfying, and less wasteful; and
  • more just in the sense that they more inclusive, more solidary (fostering solidarity), that they avoid the injustices of domination and oppression (Young 1990), and they do not cause harm to or suffering among particular individuals or groups. (p. 22)

10 Features of Public Spheres

pp. 37-49

  1. Public spheres are constituted as actual networks of communication among actual participants.
  2. Public Spheres are self-constituted, voluntary and autonomous.
    • outside formal systems of administration or influence
    • focused on a particular theme or concern
    • voluntarism can be an institutional demand
  3. Public spheres come into existence in response to legitimation deficits.
    • people think things aren't quite right (Precious knowledge: Ss and Ts saw that plans to cancel the Raza program was oppressive)
    • participants do not feel that they would necessarily have come to the decision to do things the ways they now do them, especially if they feel this way about how they are now required to do them.
  4. Public spheres are constituted for communicative action and for public discourse.

    • usually f2f IRL, but sometimes digitally mediated and anonymous

      aims to help us reach intersubjective agreement about what we mean by what we say (in the language we use), mutual understanding of one another’s points of view, and unforced consensus about what to do. On this view of public spheres, communicative spaces organised essentially for instrumental or functional purposes—for example, to command, to influence, or to exercise control over things—would not ordinarily qualify as public spheres. (p. 40)

    Education, properly speaking, is the process by which children, young people and adults are initiated into (1) forms of understanding that foster individual and collective selfexpression, (2) modes of action that foster individual and collective self-development, and (3) ways of relating to one another and the world that foster individual and collective selfdetermination, and that are, in these senses, oriented towards both the good for each person and the good for humankind. (p. 40)

  5. Public spheres are inclusive and permeable.
    • if a sphere is exclusive, it can't be public
  6. In public spheres, people usually communicate in ordinary language.

    • part of being inclusive

      On this view of public spheres, the communicative apparatuses of many government and business organisations, relying as they do on the specialist expertise and managerial responsibilities of some participants, do not ordinarily qualify as public spheres.

  7. Public spheres presuppose communicative freedom.
    • participation and non-participation are both voluntary
    • communicative spaces are often distorted by power, reputation, and status (could see this in the presence of the senator in the Raza classroom in Presious Knowledge)
  8. Public spheres generate communicative power.

    that is, the positions and viewpoints arrived at through open discussion and unforced consensus will command the respect of participants. Agreements reached through public discourse in public spheres command respect not by virtue of obligation, but by intersubjective agreement, mutual understanding and unforced consensus about what to do—in other words, by the force of argument alone, without coercion of any kind.

  9. Public spheres generally have an indirect, not direct, impact on social systems.
  10. Public spheres are often associated with social movements.