Educational Action Research: A Critical Approach

Wilfred Carr, Stephen Kemmis

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter


In advocating 'emancipatory action research' and in construing this as a form of 'critical educational science', our (1986) book 'Becoming Critical' has often been viewed by the action research community as offering a 'political' approach to action research as opposed to those other methodological perspectives which focus more on the 'personal' and 'professional' development of educational practitioners. In this chapter, we will take the opportunity to expose and challenge a key assumption underlying this way of understanding emancipatory action research: the assumption that it is either possible or desirable for educational action research to be anything other than 'political'. In doing this, we will argue that education cannot be extracted from politics for the simple reason that (to paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz's famous dictum about diplomacy and war,) 'education is politics conducted by other means'. In elaborating and defending this argument, we will explore what we mean by 'political' first in relation to 'education' and then in relation to 'educational action'. We will then try to show how, construed as a form of critical educational science, emancipatory action research is 'political' in the sense that it is constituted by and constitutive of the values and principles constitutive of the democratic form of social life it seeks to foster and achieve. Finally, we will try to expose the weaknesses of any attempt to classify different forms of educational action research by distinguishing those focussing on 'personal' and 'professional' development from those offering a 'political' approach.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSage Handbook of Educational Action Research
EditorsSusan E Noffke, Bridget Somekh
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherSAGE Publications Ltd
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9781412947084
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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