Are we there yet? Historical scan from biographical origins of Action Research teaching

Informed by the section of Noah Rubin’s unpublished Ph.D. dissertation about the teaching in my Action Research course and the background I bring to it, I asked students to prepare a historical scan on my behalf.  This post presents the instructions and the result I produced.

From the instructions: This activity is intended to simulate what you might do personally to guide yourself into ongoing personal and professional development in the area of educational research, organizational change, or personal change in ways that build on this course. (As well as practicing a tool you might use in the future, you will produce something that will assist my personal and professional development as a teacher of Action Research. You have permission to be playful since you cannot know all the background behind the biography or my work and life while teaching Action research.)

Historical scan

For the historical scan, extract about 30-40 items from the biographical part of Rubin and place them at the appropriate level on a three-stranded timeline from 1960 to the present–
1. Personal event or experience that made educational change and/or action research significant to me,
2. Intermediate-level event or activity related in some ways to educational change and/or action research;
3. Wider-world event or change that led to or influenced my personal & intermediate-level experiences.
(In the terms of Tuecke [2000], 1 is “local”; 2 is “regional”; and 3 is “global.”)
Each item should, preferably, be 3-5 WORDS IN BLOCK LETTERS (as would fit on a small post-it). (Alternatively, on your computer, you can make virtual Post-its that you can move around.)

Once you have a three-stranded timeline, consider one by one the following questions:

  • When were there transitions?
  • If this were a book, what name would you give for the “chapters” between the transitions?
  • …name for the whole “book”?
  • What have you learned about ongoing personal and professional development in the area of educational research, organizational change, or personal change in ways that build on this course?
  • How shall you translate the learning to future situations?


Although what follows is necessarily cryptic given that readers can’t see Rubin’s text, here are my transitions, chapter headings and book title:


Australian Culture + Counter-culture

Collective-supported study & Responsible Teaching

Self-conscious, documented journey of toolbox assembly

Distinctive Action Research pedagogy gets noticed & published

1970s 1980-1995 1996-2009


* In an Australian children’s joke the child on holidays complains “Are we nearly there?” The parent answers: “Shut up and keep swimming.”


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

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