Action Research – an inclusive approach embracing intersectionality

Action or lifeworld enquiry provides insightful methods of observing, analysing and explaining lifeworld experiences. Durden-Myers (2017) in her chapter entitled research in action explores how lifeworld experiences can be researched as they unfold or in action within educational settings.

The chapter specifically explores how action research can be used as an immersive research methodology that can be used to explore lifeworld experiences in action. In particular, action research is positioned as an effective research methodology that can be used with teachers working in contexts with a high degree of intersectionality, namely inner-city schools with diverse populations. Action research can also provide an effective alternative approach to teacher professional development, moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach, to a more responsive and personalised method that acknowledges the teaching and learning context. Action research can also be used to empower teachers to become better educators by connecting theory and practice and/or respond sensitively to the intersectional nature of their working environment. This in turn creates research informed educators with the resource to be able to challenge and improve educational practice.

Action Research and Inclusive Physical Education

Classrooms and schools are diverse places. In order to be effective, teachers and education professionals must construct responsive, effective schools and teaching practices that embrace intersectionality and respond to a diversity of students (Howard, 2007). However, the achievement and school outcomes for diverse students is often disparate. Lower expectations for these students and a concentration of less experienced or qualified teachers in high poverty and urban schools are some of the factors that have contributed to the manifestation of educational social inequalities (Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin, 2011). Effective professional development must address these enduring achievement and opportunity gaps. Without the advantage of effective teachers within these intersectional contexts many students will continue to remain behind (Dwyer, 2007). Therefore, professional development with an emphasis on educational inclusion is essential in order to stop and perhaps close the gap.

Waitoller and Artiles (2013) conducted a systematic review of the international research literature from 2000 until 2009 on professional development for inclusive education. Most of the studies on professional development for inclusive practice used qualitative methodology and did not include subject specific focus. Waitoller and Artiles (2013) presented a number of key findings from this research but in particular highlighted how the design and examination of professional development should use “an intersectional approach in which teachers identify and dismantle interesting and multiple barriers to learning and participation for all students” (p.338). Additionally, Waitoller and Artiles (2013) also suggest that professional development should also address inclusion with a subject specific focus.

Thus, this research underscores a need for collaborative, sustained and high quality professional development addressing inclusion that is centred within the context of schools and the subject content; focused on enhancing educational opportunities and achievement for all students. Action research could be used as the professional development tool to bring these two elements together.

Action research as a form of professional development is ideally situated to embrace intersectionality or the teaching and learning context alongside the subject or pedagogical content. More research that holistically embraces educational context and content is required in order to improve teaching effectiveness and student outcomes. And this research is most needed in educational context with a diverse student population in order to close achievement and opportunity gaps.

The full chapter can be found via this link

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