Action research and the deferred hopes for just research at the TESOL grassroots

Rainey, Isobel (2023). Action research and the deferred hopes for just research at the TESOL grassroots. Educational Action Research, 31(4) pp. 728–744.



Action research has been enthusiastically promoted in TESOL for almost forty years and has projected hopes for the emancipation of EFL grassroots teachers from reliance on evidence-based SLA research. Drawing on data from semi-structured interviews with grassroots secondary school teachers, this study attempts to show that the contrast between those difficulties the teachers identify as their most pressing and the action research topics commonly researched in TESOL may explain voices of dissent at the grassroots. Although there is some evidence that action research benefits practitioners in supported grassroots contexts, the voices of dissent would appear to indicate that the hopes that action research would result in a more just form of research, one which addresses the full gamut of teachers’ fundamental difficulties, remain unfulfilled. Furthermore, the study points to evidence that strict adherence to, and mandatory practice of, action research within the pragmatist paradigm can add to teachers’ burdens. In order to address all the predicaments of grassroots teachers’ realities, and facilitate a less coercive approach, a change of paradigms is proposed.

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