Felicity Armstrong and Michele Moore
In this chapter we explore the nature of practitioner research in relation to issues of exclusion and inclusion in education. We look briefly at 'cclassic' approaches to action research and then reflect on how these may be adapted, stretched, re-formed and used by practitioners to develop research projects which explicitly seek to advance an agenda for inclusion through the research process itself, as well as by bringing about changes to institutional cultures and practices. We provide some possible guidelines for approaching action research that can be used by practitioners and their co-researchers, or which can be simply explored as a means of raising questions or for understanding contexts and situations from a number of different perspectives. We have found in our own work that a multitude of controversies, confusions and contradictions are uncovered during the research process which touch on issues relating to inclusion and exclusion, so that whereas 'action research' is a central theme throughout our work, and embedded in the projects described in this book, we have a shared feeling that we are mapping the power of 'research action' as we struggle with the parameters of action research as classically defined. Suggestions we make are built out of our own assorted research experience, or borrowed from those of other researchers and practitioners, and are not intended as 'rules' which must be rigidly followed. 'Models' can quickly become straitjackets if they are not seen as subject to constant renegotiation and interpretation. The contributions in this book reflect these tensions and should not, therefore, be seen as prescriptive or examples of 'ideal practice', but they may be useful as a starting point for reflection and further research. A major purpose of the book is to encourage practitioners in bringing about change in their own work contexts through research action which, of necessity, will be idiosyncratic and characterised by internal variability, but which will begin to develop credible approaches and resources for inspiring and initiating change. The chapters which make up this book are examples of the breadth of issues which can be explored through practitioner research, and highlight some of the unexpected issues and outcomes which may emerge in the research process.