International Practice Development Journal


Title of ArticleMaking sense of critical participatory action research. Reflections on The Action Research Planner: Doing Critical Participatory Action Research
Type of ArticleIdeas and Influences
Author/sMaria Mackay
ReferenceVolume 6, Issue 2, Article 13
Date of PublicationNovember 2016
Keywordsccommunicative spaces, Habermas, participatory action research

After immersing myself in The Research Planner: Doing Critical Participatory Action Research, I believe I have a better understanding of participatory action research and its relationship to the work of Habermas. I feel it has enabled me to align my values and beliefs with Habermas and action research’s philosophical underpinnings within the critical theory paradigm. For me this book has clarified how communicative spaces, the theory of communicative action and public spheres are related to participatory methodologies.

At the start of the book, Kemmis and co-authors (2013, pp 2-3) define the purpose of critical participatory action research as ‘to change social practices, including research itself, to make them more rational and reasonable, more productive and sustainable and more just and inclusive’. ‘Rational’ in this context conveys a sense of being more reasonable, comprehensible, coherent and sensible. Carr and Kemmis (1986) critique the positivist and interpretivist paradigms and argue that for critical participatory action research to bring about social change, it needs to reject the premise of objectivity whereby the researcher is viewed as a ‘distant observer’. They further advocate that self-reflection is essential, for the individual and the collective, to ensure the critical aspect and validity of the research. Overall, they say participatory forms of research methodology create the conditions for practitioners to be activity involved and have a voice in all aspects of the research process (Kemmis et al., 2013).

This article by Maria Mackay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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