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Educational action research networks as participatory interventions

By Andrew James Townsend


In 2002, the National College for School Leadership launched what was regarded as\ud the largest educational networking programme in the world. This brought together\ud groups of schools to collaborate over developing agreed areas of their work. This\ud thesis outlines a research project aimed at networks who were members of this\ud programme and whose main activity had been action research conducted by network\ud members. This research was intended to examine, and to understand, the\ud participatory aspects of networks of this sort.\ud Five overarching themes were drawn from the literature on participatory interventions\ud and related to educational networks and to action research. The interaction of these\ud three areas of literature provided the background against which the empirical aspects\ud of this thesis were conducted. Based around an interpretive argument emphasising\ud the contextual uniqueness of these networks, a case study methodology was adopted\ud to study three networks. These three networks were those who had agreed to\ud participate of a total of 18 that had matched the profile for selection and who had been\ud invited to participate.\ud The conduct of these three case studies used a mixed method approach examining\ud documents produced by these networks as well as collecting data through the use of a\ud questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. From these three case studies\ud overarching themes were identified in the ways that these networks related to\ud participatory interventions. These themes specifically concerned: the approaches that\ud these networks had taken to action research; the ways in which they had perceived\ud and involved communities in their work; the nature of collaborative relationships in\ud the networks; the relationship between the operation of the networks and principles of\ud voluntarism and finally the roles of leadership in the networks. Overall, these\ud networks presented a model by which individuals could collectively work together for\ud a common aspiration, whilst retaining the flexibility to be relevant to local contexts

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