Understanding action research

Wai Shing LI

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


The paper examines various ideas contributing to action research. The paper first shows that action research has a rich tradition drawing extensively from various disciplines and forms of practice which are often neglected by practitioners. Practitioners may not be aware of all these relevant supporting theories and concepts. It is argued that teachers are competent and capable of doing research. Knowledge gained from action research is rigorously tested in their daily classroom practices. It is a good way to uphold practitioners’ professional autonomy by means of action research. Teachers should not be regarded as “doers” whose practice is governed by educational researchers; they are reflective practitioners. Teachers’ professional autonomy is informed by systematic inquiry and housed within professional ethics. The idea of action research is not a neutral term. On one hand, it challenges traditional ideas such as positivism and technical rationality, on the other hand, it is a call for attention to the teachers’ voice. At the same time, the development of action research also gets its nourishment from other sciences such as action science and reflective practice. Supporters of action research must be aware of the factors, both for and against, that are operating in the education arena. The paper concludes by arousing our attention, the practitioners’ in particular, of a cluster of related and relevant contributing factors for supporting action research. It is to show that action research should not be considered as “second class” research simply because they are conducted by practitioners. There is a need for more practitioners’ research in order to improve and enhance classroom practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


Li, W. S. (2003, November). Understanding action research. Paper presented at The Conference on Reform and Initiatives in Teaching and Learning, University of Macau, Macau, China.


  • Action research
  • Teacher-as-researcher
  • Professional development


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