Action Research and Postmodernism: Congruence and Critique

Action Research and Postmodernism: Congruence and Critique

Action Research and Postmodernism: Congruence and Critique

Action Research and Postmodernism: Congruence and Critique


"Make something new, Derrida says, that is how deconstruction happens. This book exemplifies such a move in the way it addresses the stuck places of practitioner oriented research with its rational, intentional agents seeking to empower both teacher self and students. An example of putting postmodernism to work in educational research, the book asks hard questions about necessary complicities.....rounded in nursery teaching and math education, it attempts to develop a better language toward a more complicated understanding of what knowledge means.... without reverting to the quick and narrow scientism of the past." - Patti Lather, Ohio State University• How can we move forward from or develop traditional approaches to Action Research which have dominated teacher research for many years now?• How can teachers work at improving their teaching when there are so many different understandings of what education is trying to achieve?• In which ways can post-structuralism, which has had such a major impact in other disciplines, offer practical support to teachers developing their own professional practices?A premise of much teacher research is that reflection on practice can lead to a development of that practice. Such reflection, it is purported, enables the practitioner in organising the complexity of the teaching situation, with a particular emphasis on how 'monitoring of change' can be converted to 'control of change'. This book questions the notion of construing developing practice as 'aiming for an ideal' and suggests that such a pursuit has a questionable track record. The very desire for control, and the difficulties encountered in trying to document it can cloud our vision from the very complexities we seek to capture. The book offers detailed discussion of teacher research enquiries carried out in the context of masters and doctoral degrees. It focuses in particular on how the reflective writing generated by the teacher might build towards an assertion of professional identity through which professional demands are mediated.


Failure in emancipatory projects

We shall begin with two anecdotes that highlight the issues we wish to examine.

Anecdote 1

One day Liz found herself reminding the children about certain
school rules: ‘no running’; ‘no hitting’. A young girl, Keeley,
responded by saying ‘My mum says that on the street if anyone
hits me I’m to hit back’. Liz found herself lamely replying, ‘At
school we don’t hit’. In part, the proffering of such a pat response
comes from not really knowing what to say to the child. In Liz’s
nursery and in nurseries generally the discourse of liberal
humanism prevails so that children might become civilized and
rational. It is for these reasons that traits such as ‘caring’ and
‘being kind’ are privileged. Yet in this instance there is a collision
between the messages that the child is bringing from home and
the nursery discourse. Liz’s lameness is further compounded as
her response seems to conflict with her desire for children to
think critically and to adopt a questioning attitude towards certain
practices – including whether rules are appropriate. But on what
basis can one decide what is appropriate? To whom does one
appeal for adjudication?

Anecdote 2

During the early 1980s Tony taught at a large comprehensive
school in London. The school combined a ‘progressive’ approach
to education with respectability in terms of the student intake it
attracted, its results and attendance levels. This was at the time of

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