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Beyond professionalism: Action research as critical pedagogy

Grundy, Shirley Joy (1984) Beyond professionalism: Action research as critical pedagogy. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Knowledge and professional action are the themes of this thesis. The notion of professionalism is re-conceptualised in terms of human action. It is argued that practitioners commonly bearing the label 'professional' can act in a variety of modes. At different moments their action may be characterised by either 'craftsmanship', 'professionalism' or 'practique', depending upon the interest by which the knowledge that informs the action is constituted. The occupation of education is taken as the particular case, but the argument has general application. Habermas' categories of purposive-rational and communicative action are employed to distinguish between action characterised by craftsmanship and that characterised by professionalism or practique. Further distinctions are made on the basis of Habermas' concept of knowledge constitutive interests, it being argued that craftsmanship is informed by a technical cognitive interest, professionalism by a practical interest and that an emancipatory interest informs the disposition of practique.

These occupational dispositions represent different levels of control of occupation knowledge. Craftsmanship requires the personalization of occupational knowledge in Polanyi's sense, professionalism the degree of control afforded by hermeneutic understanding as it is explored by Gadamer, while practique requires the control of knowledge afforded by Ideologiekritik through which enlightenment and emancipation are reflexively related through processes of self reflection. While Habermas' analogy of the psychoanalytic dialogue provides a theoretical model for the control of knowledge through the critique of ideology, Friere's critical pedagogy provides a practical model.

It is argued that action research provides a vehicle for the application of critical pedagogy to (so called) professional practice. The argument is pursued both conceptually and in the light of documentary and case study evidence of action research in the United States in the 1940's, in Britain in the 1970's and in Australia during the early part of this decade. The evidence supports the notion of the emancipatory potential of action research, but it is also clear that in practice it is more often informed by a technical or practical interest.

It is, therefore, finally argued that for action research to realize its potential as critical pedagogy, there must be a critical confrontation of the material conditions which constrain human action and mask an ideological interest in domination which distorts the knowledge by which such action is constituted.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Tripp, David
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