Action research and site based education development: Two Australian examples


 Chair: Jane Wilkinson



This paper describes a theoretical framework for understanding site based education development. We show that changing practices is not achieved only by changing practitioners' professional practice knowledge but also requires transforming the site based arrangements that support practices.

The paper draws on cases of site based education development in two Australian locations. As at every social site, participants in these sites encounter one another in intersubjective spaces that are always already arranged in particular ways, shaped by the arrangements that are found there ? arrangements in local semantic space, physical space-time, and social space. As we show through the study reported here, transforming practices occurs by transforming the arrangements to be found in the intersubjective spaces in which people in these sites comprehend one another in shared language, coordinate with one another in interaction, and connect with one another in social relationships.


The overall research approach adopted for this study is philosophical-empirical enquiry, in which ideas from practice theory and empirical data about the practices we observed are reciprocally interrogated in relation to one another. We conducted interviews and focus groups, observations and debriefing interviews after observations of teaching or meetings. We worked as co-researchers to facilitate teachers' participatory action research into their practices, and to help them study their practices as informed by particular practice traditions.


We illustrate the theory by exploring episodes of transformation at the two sites. In one site, for example, we explore a school's response to its National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results. Instead of adopting an instrumentalist and reactive response, teachers and leaders drew on the school's own views of pedagogy (in this case, an inquiry approach to teaching and learning) and approach to professional learning (a particular way of using meeting times and spaces to enact a particular view of teacher learning communities). In this case, based on its established pedagogical commitment, the school's response was to open a critically reflexive dialogue about its NAPLAN results, rather than to read the results monologically, that is, as an authoritative statement about the identity of the school and its inhabitants.


We show that these episodes of transformation were examples of site based education development, drawing on and extending schools' pre-existing arrangements in semantic space, physical space-time and social space.