Assessing the quality of action research

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35 Citations (Scopus)


This contribution constitutes an attempt to distil quality criteria for assessing educational action research from examples of action research that the author has directly experienced in the course of his career. As such it effects a reconciliation between the idea of quality as an object of direct and immediate experience and as an object of more distanced criterial thinking and measurement. The author grounds the criteria in a number of narratives of experience or vignettes. In doing so he demonstrates how quality criteria are bound to contexts and multifaceted. The author clarifies the tradition of educational action research that has shaped his work with teachers and to which that work itself has contributed; namely one that stemmed from Stenhouse's notion of ‘teachers as researchers’. He then goes on to illustrate three different kinds of teacher research he has engaged with—externally mediated, experimental teaching, and networked learning communities—and how quality shapes up rather differently in each. Each kind of teacher research will need to be judged in its own terms even when it shares certain common features. In the final section, Furlong and Oancea's domains of quality for applied and practice‐based research are addressed. The author argues that each set of criteria distilled from his experience can be linked to Furlong and Oancea's dimensions of quality (with the exception of the economic dimension). Each expresses a concern for theoretical and methodological robustness, value‐for‐use (by teachers), and building capacity amongst teachers as potential agents of educationally worthwhile change. These universal dimensions of quality may be discerned in the formulation of the criteria illustrated in the vignettes. However, he contends that Furlong and Oancea's dimensions are too abstract and distanced from concrete experiences of action research to serve as meaningful criteria for judgement. Nevertheless, he claims that they can offer a broad orientation to reflecting about quality‐as‐experienced. This is illustrated by the author discussing the value‐for‐use dimension in the light of his experience of a particular action research project aimed at overcoming disaffection from learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-246
Number of pages18
JournalResearch Papers in Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Assessing action research
  • Experimental teaching
  • Networked learning communities
  • Quality criteria
  • Rigour
  • Value‐for‐use

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