A student, a practitioner or a researcher? An attempt to reconcile the three roles through an undergraduate action research module

Journal article

Papadopoulou, M. 2021. A student, a practitioner or a researcher? An attempt to reconcile the three roles through an undergraduate action research module. Educational Action Research. https://doi.org/10.1080/09650792.2021.1886959
AuthorsPapadopoulou, M.

This paper reflects on the tensions and possibilities offered by a newly developed Action Research (AR) module in a Higher Education (HE) institution. The module, that has now run its first presentation, was offered to final year, undergraduate Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) students who are already working in the early years sector. Its aims were two-fold: first, to support students in developing the research and academic skills needed to obtain degree results; second, to become an emancipa- tory and political tool that can help practitioners critically examine the conditions that shape their practice. Drawing on the principles of critical, collaborative AR, students were supported in developing Communities of Practice (CoP) and in gradually moving from peripheral participation to assuming more central, expert positions. AR was also used by the tutor in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the module. Results from the latter suggest that the first, academic aims were met successfully. However, the second, emancipatory agenda faced challenges as the students seemed to assume a different, learners’ agenda. This paper makes topical the apparent tensions between the roles of practitioner, student and researcher and considers whether a reconciliation between the three is possible.

KeywordsCollaborative action research; Early years practitioners; Communities of practice; Communities of students; Student identities; Reflection
JournalEducational Action Research
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/09650792.2021.1886959
Official URLhttps://doi.org/10.1080/09650792.2021.1886959
Publication dates
Online15 Feb 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted04 Feb 2021
Deposited08 Mar 2021
Accepted author manuscript
Output statusPublished

Arthur, L. 2016. “Communities of Practice in Higher Education: Professional Learning in an Academic Career.” International Journal for Academic Development 21 (3): 230–241. doi:10.1080/ 1360144X.2015.1127813.
Bandura, A. 1997. Self Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: Freeman.

British Educational Research Association (BERA). 2018. Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research.

4th Available at Accessed: 30 April 2019 https://www.bera.ac.uk/researchers-resources/publica


Chesney, S., and C. Marcangelo. 2010. “There Was a Lot of Learning Going On: Using a Digital
Medium to Support Learning in a Professional Course for New HE Lecturers.” Computers and
Education 54: 701–708. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.09.027.

Cousin, G., and F. Deepwell. 2005. “Designs for Network Learning: A Communities of Practice

Perspective.” Studies in Higher Education 30: 57–66. doi:10.1080/0307507052000307795.

Getz, C. 2009. “Teaching Leadership as Exploring Sacred Space.” Educational Action Research 17:
447–461. doi:10.1080/09650790903093318.

Gibbs, P., P. Cartney, K. Wilkinson, J. Parkinson, S. Cunningham, C. James-Reynolds, T. Zoubir, et al.
2017. “Literature Review on the Use of Action Research in Higher Education.” Educational Action

Research 25 (1): 3–22. doi:10.1080/09650792.2015.1124046.

Gravett, S. 2004. “Action Research and Transformative Learning in Teaching Development.”
Educational Action Research 12: 259–272. doi:10.1080/09650790400200248.

Greenbank, P. 2007. “Utilising Collaborative Forms of Educational Action Research: Some
Reflections.” Journal of Further and Higher Education 31: 97–108. doi:10.1080/


Groundwater-Smith, S., and N. Mockler. 2016. “From Data Source to Co-researchers? Tracing the
Shift from ‘Student Voice’ to Student-Teacher Partnerships in Educational Action Research.”
Educational Action Research 24 (2): 159–176. doi:10.1080/09650792.2015.1053507.

Henri, F., and B. Pudelko. 2003. “Understanding and Analysing Activity and Learning in Virtual

Communities.” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 19: 474–487. doi:10.1046/j.0266-

Hil, R. 2015. Selling Students Short. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.

Hodkinson, P. 2004. “Research as a Form of Work: Expertise, Community and Methodological

Objectivity.” British Educational Research Journal 30: 9–26. doi:10.1080/01411920310001629947.
Jacobs, G. 2010. “Conflicting Demands and the Power of Defensive Routines in Participatory Action

Research.” Action Research 8: 367–386. doi:10.1177/1476750310366041.
Kemmis, S. 2006. “Participatory Action Research and the Public Sphere.” Educational Action Research

14 (4): 459–476. doi:10.1080/09650790600975593.

Kemmis, S. 2009. “Action Research as a Practice-Based Practice.” Educational Action Research 17 (3):

463–474. doi:10.1080/09650790903093284.

Kemmis, S. 2010. “What Is to Be Done? The Place of Action Research.” Educational Action Research 18
(4): 417–427. doi:10.1080/09650793.2010.524745.

Kemmis, S., and R. McTaggart. 1998. The Action Research Planner. Geelong: Deakin University Press.

Kinsler, K. 2010. “The Utility of Educational Action Research for Emancipatory Change.” Action

Research 8 (2): 171–189. doi:10.1177/1476750309351357.

Lave, J., and É. Wenger. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
The Literacy Study Group. 2010. “The Allegiance and Experience of Student Literacy Teachers in the

Post-compulsory Education Context: Competing Communities of Practice.” Journal of Education
for Teaching 36 (1): 5–17. doi:10.1080/02607470903461927.

McAlister, M. 2016. “Emerging Communities of Practice.” Collective Essays on Learning and Teaching, Volume IX.
McNiff, J. 2017. Action Research. All You Need to Know. London: Sage.
Moss, P. 2007. “Bringing Politics into the Nursery: Early Childhood Education as a Democratic Practice.” European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 15 (1): 5–20. doi:10.1080/ 13502930601046620.
Nagy, J., and T. Burch. 2009. “Communities of Practice in Academe (Cop-ia): Understanding Academic Work Practices to Enable Knowledge Building Capacities in Corporate Universities.” Oxford Review of Education 35: 227–247. doi:10.1080/03054980902792888.
Papadopoulou, M. 2011. “The Authority of Personal Knowledge in the Development of Critical Thinking: A Pedagogy of Self Reflection.” Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences 3 (3): 1–21. doi:10.11120/elss.2011.03030012.
Papadopoulou, M. 2019. “Supporting the Development of Early Years Students’ Professional Identities through an Action Research Programme.” Educational Action Research. doi:10.1080/ 09650792.2019.1652196.
Pemberton, J., S. Mavin, and B. Stalker. 2007. “Scratching beneath the Surface of Communities of (Mal) Practice.” The Learning Organization 14: 62–73. doi:10.1108/09696470710718357.
Polanyi, M. 1962. Personal Knowledge. Towards a Post Critical Philosophy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Roberts, J. 2006. “£limits to Communities of Practice.” Journal of Management Studies 43: 623–639. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6486.2006.00618.x.
Schӧn, D.A. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner. How Professionals Think in Action. London: Temple Smith.
Wenger, É. 1998. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wenger, É. 2004. “Knowledge Management as a Doughnut”. Ivey Business Journal. https://iveybusi nessjournal.com/publication/knowledge-management-as-a-doughnut/ last accessed 11/07/19
Whitehead, J., and M. Jean. 2006. Action Research. Living Theory. London: Sage Publications.

Permalink -


Download files

  • 3
    total views
  • 1
    total downloads
  • 0
    views this month
  • 0
    downloads this month

Export as

Related outputs

Supporting the development of early years students’ professional identities through an Action Research programme
Papadopoulou, M. 2019. Supporting the development of early years students’ professional identities through an Action Research programme. Educational Action Research. https://doi.org/10.1080/09650792.2019.1652196
The 'space' of friendship: young children's understandings and expressions of friendship in a reception class
Papadopoulou, M. 2016. The 'space' of friendship: young children's understandings and expressions of friendship in a reception class. Early Child Development and Care. 186 (10), pp. 1544-1558. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2015.1111879
The ecology of role play: intentionality and cultural evolution
Papadopoulou, M. 2013. The ecology of role play: intentionality and cultural evolution. British Educational Research Journal. 38 (4), pp. 575-592. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411926.2011.569005
The authority of personal knowledge in the development of critical thinking — a pedagogy of self-reflection
Papadopoulou, M. 2011. The authority of personal knowledge in the development of critical thinking — a pedagogy of self-reflection. Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences (ELiSS). 3 (3), pp. 1-23. https://doi.org/10.11120/elss.2011.03030012
Being in the world: the event of learning
Papadopoulou, M. and Birch, R. 2009. Being in the world: the event of learning. Educational Philosophy And Theory. 41 (3), pp. 270-286. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-5812.2007.00390.x