RE: [xmca] Action Research and its relationship to SCHAT

From: Michael Glassman (
Date: Fri Jan 26 2007 - 12:54:52 PST

Hello Cathrene,

It is funny, because I wonder if Dewey and Beard and Bentley and some of
the other progressives might make the opposite argument, that history
can be an instrument used by the powerful to achieve their own needs.
We use history selectively in the present, to solve our problems in the
present. I guess this relates to the Pragmatic view of the immediacy of
human activity. A while back Andy talked about the Conservative
movements (capital C) being ahistorical or not paying attention to
history. But I see the Conservative forces in the United States making
strong historical arguments, it is just based on their history, to meet
their needs. One of the big political issues occurring right now is
over Iraq and how much the Democratic party should protest against it.
One of the histories that has been bandied about for the last few
decades is that the Democratic party has been viewed as weak on security
because of the get out of Vietnam stand they took in the early 1970s,
making people afraid to demand that we get out of Iraq. But what people
have been finding using the internet and Google is that may not be the
actual history. It is a very selective history that has been used by
Conservative forces to keep people from really pulling the plug on Iraq.
If not for the internet how long would that history have been able to
survive, to be used as an instrument to achieve an end-in-view? I think
this is the point that Dewey was getting at in that quote, that
instrument is not an object but a process, something we use to achieve
our ends.

Of course you can say, well things will work out better if you use a
better history - but is there a better history, one that we can claim
deserves primacy? Do we get in to trouble when we treat history as an
object, a real thing that we can know? Does that give too much power to
whoever is controlling information at the moment? I don't have any
answers, and these are difficult questions. Is it better to focus on
agency, and through agency to understand how individuals and groups do
use history as an instrument, and will make claims about the objectivity
of their historical analysis (Lynn Cheney and Bill Bennett claim that
their writings represent the true history, and one of the problems with
the United States is that we have gotten away from this true history).


-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of Cathrene Connery
Sent: Thursday, January 25, 2007 10:22 PM
To: Culture Activity eXtended Mind
Subject: [xmca] Action Research and its relationship to SCHAT

Hi Mike, David, Michael and colleagues:
Thanks for all your valuable insights regarding SCHAT & action research.
I am not familiar with Engestrom's chapter and would relish the
opportunity to read it. David hit the nail on the head when he
identified agency as central to my reflections. Elliott's work sounds
right on target......the "reformulation of power relationships involved"
in the action research process echoes Denzin's interpretative
interactionism and Stringer's approach to action research. I wonder
where we would locate Vygotsky & his colleagues' efforts to address the
high illiteracy rate after the Russian Revolution.....(would their
investigations be considered "action research"?) but I leave that to
minds with more background that my own.

Michael's quote from Dewey was excellent. And at the same time, was
Dewey really correct? Do men really "face the future, but for the sake
of the present, not of the future"? Is it true, in using this
inheritance"they [men] are compelled to modify it to meet their own
needs"? With all due respect to Dewey, could this be a gendered or
classist view? If such a " process creates a new present in which the
process continues. [and] History cannot escape its own process" are we
doomed like the dog who continuously chases its tail?

Can we can pay homage to history while balancing it with the future
potential for political action made possible by the identification of
causal-dynamic bases for human behavior? Don't we have evidence of
action, process, and progress at a variety of levels? Or perhaps I have
misinterpreted Michael's query and am dichotomizing history and agency?
No doubt my own American optimism and faith in humans clouds my
Best wishes,

M. Cathrene Connery, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Bilingual & TESL Education
Central Washington University

>>> Michael Glassman <> 1/25/2007 1:30 PM
"As culture changes, the conceptions that are dominant in a culture
change...History is then rewritten. Material that had formerly been
passed by, offers itself as data, because the new conceptions propose
new problems for solutions, requiring new factual material for statement
and test....All historical construction is necessarily selective...If
the fact of selection is acknowledged to be primary and basic, we are
committed to the conclusion that all history is necessarily written from
the standpoint of the present, and is, in an inescapable sense, the
history of the present but of that which is contemporaneously judged to
be important in the present...Men have their own problems to solve,
their own adaptation to make. They face the future, but for the sake of
the present, not of the future. In using what has come to them as an
inheritance from the past they are compelled to modify it to meet their
own needs, and this process creates a new present in which the process
continues. History cannot escape its own process."


John Dewey

Logic: The theory of inquiry pp. 233, 235, 239
Just some food for thought relating to the history discussion. In some
ways I think this is sympathetic to what Cathrene was saying, but it
seems he is also giving primacy to agency.


From: on behalf of David ES
Sent: Thu 1/25/2007 1:28 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [SPAM] RE: [xmca] Action Research and its relationship to

Hi Cathrene,

Your highlights of an action research-CHAT framework helped me see that
Edwards does seem to minimize agency ("effective participation" in
distributing knowledge) and accord CHAT its more significant
contribution to illuminating expansive cycles of systemic transformation
(embedding action in systems of activity).

It's interesting that agency is central to John Elliott, on whom Edwards
leans heavily for formulations of Action Research. His 1991 book
_Action Research for Educational Change_ is about action research as a
form of creative resistance of activist teacher-researchers to
"technocratic systems of surveillance and control in the guise of
curriculum reform." (By the way, he includes here not only the kinds of
short-sighted, ahistorical government policies and processes that others
have brought to light earlier in this thread but also academic
researchers who "hijack" teachers' theories.)

He explicitly points to the ways that power, agency, and identity are
intertwined in the kinds of reflective practice that the Action Research
he's after promotes, one that "transforms rather than simply
preserves... the professional craft culture of teachers."

This points to the second critical component in your list of three about
the contributions of historical analysis: "engage in dialectic,
transactional process with the past." In my view, this hinges on the
expansion of the object of the activity of an inquiry process and the
reformulation of power relationships of those involved.

How does this view of activist teacher-researchers and critical
relationships with researcher-researchers sit with others' views of
CHAT-Action Research frameworks?


Cathrene Connery wrote:
> Buenas noches companeros,
> Jay is correct in stating that, at least in the United States, we are
> threatened by sterile, ahistorical or uni-historical epistemologies
> of reality derived from political sound bites and drive-through
> observations, "whitewashed" of all cultural influence with the
> exception of consumer culture.
> In regards to SCHAT & action research, Edwards' article is, indeed,
> excellent with many cogent points. I concur with her call for action
> research to move beyond "explicit practitioner's tacit knowledge" to
> "conceptualize how knowledge held in communities of practice might be
> informed, used, constructed, and shared". She elegantly draws on
> Moll's funds of knowledge as a data source in the investigatory
> process, and yet my understanding of action research goes a little
> further than "the production and interpretation of complex
> environments" by researcher OR participant. While I may have missed
> her boat, the value of action research, when motivated, informed, and
> contextualized by SCHAT, is that the process 1) results in the
> creation of a novel fund of knowledge that, when applied to the
> historical context serves as a 2) a semiotic process or psychological
> tool for the direct, immediate benefit or use of the stakeholders
> engaged in the study. It is critical that the process of
> investigation, while commencing with the researcher, concludes with
> the collaborative creation of transformative tools based on the input
> and energies of the participants in a manner of significance to their
> perezhivanija.
> In this framework, historical analysis retains a critical component
> of the process in that it helps us to 1) contextualize where we have
> been so we may 2) choose to engage in a dialectic, transactional
> process with the past to 3) potentially transform the future without
> rebuilding a different house with same tools and resources of the
> master so to speak. This is the beauty of the genetic method as
> informed by the goals and protocols of action research.
> Cathrene
> M. Cathrene Connery, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Bilingual & TESL
> Education Central Washington University

David Eddy Spicer, Ed.D.
Harvard Graduate School of Education
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