What is action research and how do we do it?

Action research. In this article we explore the development of some different traditions of action research and provide an introductory guide to the literature. contents: what is action research? · origins · the decline and rediscovery of action research · undertaking action research · conclusion · further reading · how to cite this article. see, also: […]

Researching education, learning and community: building theory

Researching education, learning and community: building theory. In this piece we examine the process of generating theory. We ask ‘what is theory?’ We also look at the process of analysis, integration and imagination. For the last of these we pay special attention to the work of C. Wright Mills. Contents: introduction · what is theory? […]

How to do a community audit: building profiles using neighbourhood statistics

On this page we suggest some basic and quick steps you can undertake a community audit, and gather information about a particular neighbourhood in Britain or Northern Ireland. contents: introducing community audits and profiles · quick statistical profile · census material · local authority statistics and other material · crime · other searches · your […]

Developing critical conversations about practice

In this 1995 article Mark K Smith explores the use of study groups by practitioners to deepen and extend their practice. It looks at how we may transcend individualized responses through building ‘critical communities of enquirers’. contents: preface · introduction · collective explorations of practice · the mechanics of study groups · exploring practice collectively: […]

Dialogue and conversation for learning, education and change

Dialogue and conversation  for learning, education and change. ‘Dialogue’, Freire says, ‘is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world’. Here we explore this idea – and its roots. Contents: introduction · Gadamer – horizons of understanding · emotions and virtues · Habermas: dialogue, power and distortion · Bohm on […]

Elliot W. Eisner, connoisseurship, criticism and the art of education

Elliot W. Eisner, connoisseurship, criticism and the art of education. Elliot W. Eisner has deepened our appreciation of education in a number of areas. Here we examine his argument that education involves the exercise of artistry and the development of connoisseurship and criticism. We also assess his contribution to the debates around school reform. contents: […]

Evaluation for education, learning and change – theory and practice

Evaluation  for education, learning and change – theory and practice. Evaluation is part and parcel of educating – yet it can be experienced as a burden and an unnecessary intrusion. We explore the theory and practice of evaluation and some of the key issues for informal and community educators, social pedagogues youth workers and others. In […]

Using focus groups in evaluation and research

Using focus groups in evaluation and research. Focus groups have been part of market research for many years. Their popularity in advertising and marketing – and their use to find new ways of getting us to buy particular products or ideas – puts off a lot of people. However, they are a very useful tool […]

Pearl Jephcott, youth and the lives of ordinary people

Pearl Jephcott produced a series of influential studies of the lives of young people and was an important figure in the development of thinking about youth club work. She also undertook a number of community studies that added significantly to our appreciation of working-class life. contents: introduction · life · Pearl Jephcott, youth work and […]

Writing and keeping journals. A guide for educators and social practitioners

Writing and keeping journals. A guide for educators and social practitioners. Educators are often encouraged to write journals – especially when they are training – but what does journal writing entail, what benefits can it bring, and how can we go about writing one? Contents: introduction · what is a journal? · the benefits of […]

Kurt Lewin: groups, experiential learning and action research

Kurt Lewin: groups, experiential learning and action research. Kurt Lewin was a seminal theorist who deepened our understanding of groups, experiential learning, and action research. What did he actually add to the theory and practice of pedagogy and informal education? contents: introduction · life · field theory · group dynamics · democracy and groups · […]

C. Wright Mills: power, craftsmanship, and private troubles and public issues

C. Wright Mills: power, craftsmanship, and private troubles and public issues. Charles Wright Mills (1916-1962) was one of the most influential radical social theorists and critics in twentieth century America. His work continues to have considerable significance. Here we focus on his connecting of private troubles and public issues; his exploration of power relationships; and […]

Participant observation: A guide for educators and social practitioners

Participant observation: A guide for educators and social practitioners. In this piece we examine the nature of participant observation, the various social roles that researchers can take; and some classic problems of participant observation – especially around questions of access and ethics. Contents: introduction · what is participant observation? ·  participant observation – the question […]

what is praxis?

Few educators speak of praxis. Those that do tend to link it to the work of Freire. Yet while praxis may not be part of many workers overt vocabulary, practice, a pale derivative, is. So what is praxis and why should educators be concerned with it? contents: · theory and practice · practical reasoning · […]

Robert Putnam, social capital and civic community

Robert Putnam, social capital and civic community. Robert Putnam has been described as the most influential academic in the world today. His book Bowling Alone seems to have struck a chord with many concerned with the state of public life. Is the hype justified? We explore Putnam’s contribution and its significance for informal educators and […]

Research for practice

Exploring research within and around informal education, community learning and development, and social action Methods and approaches Action research: an introductory guide to the literature. Building theory – the nature of theory and the process of analysis, integration and imagination. Community profiling – we suggest some basic and quick steps you can take to gather […]

Donald Schon (Schön): learning, reflection and change

Donald Schon (Schön): learning, reflection and change. Donald Schon made a remarkable contribution to our understanding of the theory and practice of learning. His innovative thinking around notions such as ‘the learning society’, ‘double-loop learning’ and ‘reflection-in-action’ has become part of the language of education. We explore his work and some of the key themes […]

M. Joan Tash, youth work and the development of professional supervision

Joan Tash made a lasting contribution to our understanding of the process of youth work and informal education. She pioneered the use of supervision; deepened our appreciation of detached and project-based youth work; and made a number of innovations in the training and development of youth workers and informal educators. contents: introduction · life · […]

William Foote Whyte, street society, organizations and learning from the field

William Foote Whyte, street society, organizations and learning from the field. William Foote Whyte made a seminal contribution to our appreciation of local community life and the possibilities of participant observation. He also explored organizational behavior and became an expert in employee-owned firms. We explore his work and his continuing significance for informal and community […]

Peter Willmott – community, family and public policy

Peter Willmott – community, family and public policy. Peter Willmott (1923-2000) played an important role in deepening appreciation of the experiences of people in families and local communities. As a sociologist, researcher and communicator he was able to speak to some of the most important concerns of his time. We assess his work and contribution. […]

Classic studies: Working with unattached youth

Classic studies: Working with unattached youth. Working with Unattached Youth: Problem, approach, method (Goetschius and Tash 1967) remains one of the most sustained pieces of research into youth work in the UK. In this piece we explore the research elements that contributed to its success and draw out some of the implications for current practice. […]

Writing up research and evaluation

Writing up research and evaluation. What is involved in writing a research report or study? Here we explore ‘writing up’ as an integral and ongoing element of the research process – and explore what some of the implications for practitioners may be. Contents: introduction · writing and theorizing · who, what why? · readers’ experiences […]