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What is the ‘good’ of Bridget Somekh? A celebration of and critical reflection on a career as an action researcher

Schostak, John F. (2010) What is the ‘good’ of Bridget Somekh? A celebration of and critical reflection on a career as an action researcher. Educational Action Research, 18 (1). pp. 5-17. ISSN 1747-5074

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Abstract

Over the years, Bridget Somekh has made a substantial contribution to the development of action research. Her concern has been to make real change in the quality of everyday practices in education and to influence policy. In particular, this article explores the significance of her work for methodology, professional practice and for what may be called the ‘project’ of action research as the development of ‘communities of research‐practitioners’ who in some way seek to ‘improve’ the quality of their action within their workplace. In action research there is a presumed personal and social ‘good’ for the individuals concerned, the community and society more generally, to be achieved through the research process. This then implies a concern for social justice in terms of the promotion, the recognition and the allocation of such ‘goods’. This is particularly so if action research has a participative, inclusive, essentially democratic core of values. To what extent has her work thus contributed not just to developments in workplace practice, professional development and policy‐making, but also to the necessary conditions for democratic practice and social justice more generally through educational action research? In many ways her ‘project’ has been, and still is, the project of embedding action research into professional practice at all levels, from day‐to‐day interactions in schools and communities to policy‐making. The ‘good’ of Bridget Somekh that emerges from this discussion is precisely the project of getting people’s voices heard as they combine in action to make a real difference in their workplaces, communities or at policy level.

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