The Impact of Action Research on Practitioners' Thinking: A Supporting Case for Action Research as a Method of Professional Development

Rose, Janet. 2001. The Impact of Action Research on Practitioners' Thinking: A Supporting Case for Action Research as a Method of Professional Development. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis considers the role of action research in the development of practitioners' thinking. An empirical and theoretical evaluation is made of the way in which the conduct of action research affected the reflexive thought processes of twenty-five early years practitioners who undertook this form of professional development as part of the Principles into Practice Research Project based at Goldsmiths' College. In particular, this study aims to provide a clearer indication of action research's acclaimed capacity for extending practitioners' critical analysis of their practice and to help narrow the empirical gap between the idealistic assumptions of action research and the reality of its transformatory power.

The importance of practitioners' thinking in determining quality of practice is highlighted and the potential for action research to influence and develop this thinking is considered. The thesis establishes a theoretical rationale of the thinking process and critical reflection within action research. Key characteristics are traced and grounded within various conceptual models of cognition and critical thinking drawn from a variety of sources within the fields of cognitive science and adult development. The theoretical framework is also utilised as an exploratory and explanatory mechanism with which to interrogate the research data. The major themes that emerged from the codification process of the data analysis are demonstrated with supporting evidence.

These are linked to major theoretical constructs in the broader literature so that the full significance of action research's impact is ascertained and any critical facets determined. The findings reveal action research's capacity to influence practitioners' thinking by providing a coherent structure with which to organise their thinking and by sharpening and deepening their levels of consciousness. It provides a means of affirming good practice, but more importantly, of challenging misguided practice so that more valid interpretations of reality emerge. It stimulates a more critical and questioning frame of mind which helps to unearth ingrained assumptions about practice and generate more worthwhile educational provision. It also gives rise to an emotionally empowering process which imbues practitioners with a more critical disposition. The emancipatory potential of action research is also highlighted, as is its role in contributing to social justice.

The thesis is premised upon the belief that the key to educational quality centres around the individual practitioner. The research presented here offers a compelling case for action research as a favourable strategy for professional development. It bolsters the assertions made by advocates of action research's potential to bring about improved quality of educational practice by improving the quality of practitioners' thinking and generating a more critical orientation towards practice.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


action research, professional development, method, practitioners, practice research

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies



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Date Deposited:

09 Jul 2020 14:44

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:51


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