The Nordic tradition of educational action research in the light of practice architectures

Year: 2012

Author: Salo, Petri, Rönnerman, Karin

Type of paper: Abstract refereed



The purpose of this paper is twofold; firstly to describe and reflect on the relevance and forms of Nordic tradition of educational action research, in the realms of a globalized "educational world order" and in the light of the Nordic tradition of bildung, folk enlightenment and study circles, and secondly to contribute to a conversation between educational traditions (the Anglo-American and the Continental-Nordic tradition).


In order to grasp the forms for collaborative knowledge construction characteristic in the Nordic educational tradition, the practices of study circle as part of the Nordic educational action research (with roots in work sciences) are analysed by using the theoretical framework of practice architectures (Kemmis & Grootenboer 2008). This framework identifies and focus on three forms of preconditions and spaces; material-economical (the physical time-space), social-political (the social-space) and cultural-discursive (the semantic space). After identifying characteristics of the three spaces they are related to and compared with corresponding current Anglo-Saxon concepts and practices, especially professional learning communities.


The analysis reveals that the social-political preconditions (the social space) precede the material-economic and cultural-discursive preconditions. Thereby ´relatings´ are brought forward as an aspect characterizing both study circles and the Nordic tradition of educational action research. Still, all the preconditions are to be understood in the light of the heritage of French revolution, and the ideals and concepts of liberty, fraternity and equality. Liberty refers to both freedom from oppression and a freedom to critical thinking and self-reflection. Fraternity includes togetherness, belonging to a collective (a nation or a folk) and to a capacity to act as an able citizen in a civil society. Equality indicates open and democratic access to knowledge as well as equal opportunities considering participation in education. These three educational values and purposes have been present even in the Anglo-American educational tradition, in form of cultural transmission, liberal education and the strive for development and progress in economic terms.


The on-going local, regional, national and global changes call for spaces and arenas for dialogue and collective meaning making, in the Habermasian sense of communicative action. The regional traditions characteristic to the Nordic education seems to meet the ideas and concepts of global educational research (e.g. distributed leadership and transformative learning). Still, when it comes to for example professional learning communities the aim of furthering effectiveness has to be related to explicit values, purposes and ends.