Professor Jean McNiff

BA, MA, PGCE, Dip Tefl, PhD, SFHEA

I was a teacher and deputy head teacher in a large secondary school in the UK before taking early retirement, whereupon I began to develop my writing, and my retail and consultancy businesses. I was invited to take up various Visiting Professorial posts to support staff development: these included positions at:

• the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa;
• the Universities of the West of England and Glamorgan, in Ireland: these both acted as accrediting institutions for country-wide Masters programmes I initiated and developed;
• the University of Limerick, where I initiated and developed structured doctorates, a form of doctoral study now established on most Irish universities’ curricula;
• St Mary’s University, Twickenham, where I introduced and developed practice-based Masters programmes, for delivery to St Mary’s academic staff and concurrently for 10 teachers in the township of Khayelitsha, South Africa;
• the University of Tromsø, and Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway.
• Beijing Normal University and Ningxia Teachers’ University, People’s Republic of China.

In 2008 I was invited to join York St John University as Professor of Educational Research, working on a part-time basis, with a broad mandate of contributing to raising institutional research profile through encouraging and supporting staff research capacity.

I have also worked with a range of national and international institutions and agencies to support practitioners in schools and other workplaces: I support them as they produce their accounts of practice to show how they theorise those practices and hold themselves accountable for what they are doing. This work with national and international agencies has been undertaken in Cambodia, Canada, China, Denmark, the Gulf States, Iceland, India, Ireland, Malaysia, Northern Ireland, Norway and the USA.

My website:

Further Information


My teaching has as a central focus the support of practitioners across the professions who wish to develop their research and pedagogical capacity. To this end I initiated practice-based masters programmes, first in Ireland and later in St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and South Africa.

I currently supervise doctoral studies, working mainly from York St John University, and have sole-supervised the following to completion:

  • Maria James (2013) Developing a Theopraxis: How can I legitimately be a Christian teacher-educator? York: University of Leeds (co-supervised with Professor Julian Stern).
  • Mary Roche (2007) Towards a living theory of caring pedagogy. Limerick: University of Limerick.
  • Caitriona McDonagh (2007) My living theory of learning to teach for social justice: how do I enable primary school children with specific learning disability (dyslexia) and myself as their teacher to realise our learning potentials? Limerick: University of Limerick.
  • Margaret Cahill (2007) My living theory of inclusional practice. Limerick: University of Limerick.
  • Ray O’Neill (2008) ICT as Political Action. Dublin: University of Glamorgan.
  • Chris Glavey (2008) Helping eagles fly: a living theory approach to student and young adult leadership development. Dublin: University of Glamorgan.
  • Máirín Glenn (2006) Working with collaborative projects. Limerick: University of Limerick.
  • Bernie Sullivan (2006) A Living Theory of a Practice of Social Justice: Realising the right of Traveller children to educational equality. Limerick: University of Limerick.
  • Kevin McDermott (2001) Reading Practice: Essays in Dialogue and Pedagogical Conversations. Dublin: University of Glamorgan.

Currently, four further candidates, studying variously with the University of Leeds and York St John University, are moving towards a successful completion by the end of 2019.

I have extensive experience as an external examiner of PhD, professional and business education doctoral theses; accredited by a range of UK and international universities, including the Universities of Auckland and Waikato, in New Zealand; Queensland and Curtin, in Australia; Alberta, in Canada; Pretoria, Witwatersrand, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan, Johannesburg, Western Cape and Rand Afrikaans, in South Africa; Nottingham, Aberdeen, Leicester, Bath, Sussex, Surrey, Nottingham, Newcastle, Middlesex, Bath Spa, Wolverhampton, Swansea, in the UK.


My ongoing research programme is chronicled and communicated through the production of scholarly texts in the form of academic books, book chapters, and journal articles (roughly one each per year for the last ten years). These printed texts are now being supplemented by online resources (for example Jean McNiff Discusses Action Research; see also my website at

The aim of this research programme is to encourage practitioners across workplaces, including in universities, to develop capacity, individually and collectively, in critical emancipatory thinking and practices.

The impact of this programme may be seen in the international take-up of my ideas, the many citations of my texts (for example Orientations, purposes and reflection: a framework for understanding action research Mary L. Rearick!,*, Allan Feldman ; Jean McNiff action research model), and the use of my materials on higher degree courses internationally (for example, Jean McNiff's scientific contributions while affiliated with York St John University (York, United Kingdom) and other places).

It may also be seen in the frequent invitations I receive to deliver keynote presentations and professional education workshops (for example at Professional Image and Ethos of Teachers conference; 2014 Strasbourg, France), and acknowledgement of the extent of my educational influence as seen in, for example:

The validity of my research and attestation to its quality, reach and influence may also be seen in the acknowledgement by doctoral researchers in their theses and work documents as in:

The significance of these citations resides in the active development of individual and communities of researchers who have come together to decide through collective negotiation how they should live together, and develop their capacity to encourage new generations of researchers to do the same.



McNiff, J. (2019) (under contract) (ed.) Representations of the Academic. Abingdon: Routledge.

McNiff, J. (2017) Action Research: All you need to know. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

McNiff, J. (2017) Action Research for Professional Development (2nd edition). Poole: September Books.

McNiff, J. (2016) You and Your Action Research Project (4th edition). Abingdon, Routledge.

McNiff, J. (2016) Writing Up Your Action Research. Abingdon: Routledge.

McNiff, J. (2016) (ed.) Values and Virtues in Higher Education Research: Critical Perspectives. Abingdon: Routledge.

McNiff, J. (2014) Writing and Doing Action Research. London: Sage.

McNiff, J. (2013) Action Research: Principles and Practice (3rd edition). Abingdon: Routledge.

McNiff, J. (2013) (ed) Value and Virtue in Practice-Based Research. Proceedings of the international conference Value and Virtue in Practice-Based Research, at York St John University, York. Poole, September Books.

McNiff, J. (2000) Action Research in Organisations. London: Routledge.

Co-authored books

McDonnell, P. and McNiff, J. (2016) Action Research for Nurses. London, Sage.

McDonnell, P. and McNiff, J. (2013) Action Research for Professional Selling. Farnham: Gower.

Journal Articles

McNiff, J., Edvardsen, O. and Steinholt, M. (2018) ‘Impact’, influence and the practice of shared expertise’

McNiff, J. (2015) ‘Editorial’ in Special Issue ‘Value and Virtue in Practice-Based Research’, Educational Action Research Vol. 23, No. 1: 1–3.

McNiff, J. (2013) Becoming cosmopolitan and other dilemmas of internationalisation. Cambridge Journal of Education Vol. 43, No. 4: 501–515.

McNiff, J. (2012) Travels around identity: Transforming cultures of learned colonisation, Educational Action Research 20(1): 129–146. March.

McNiff, J. (2011a) New cultures of critical reflection in Qatar, Educational Action Research 19(3): 279–196.

McNiff, J. (2011b) It takes a township. South African Journal of Higher Education, 25(7) (1253–1273).

McNiff, J. (2008) The significance of ‘I’ in educational research and the responsibility of intellectuals. South African Journal of Education. Vol. 28, No. 3: 351–364. 

McNiff, J. (2008) ‘Accounting to myself: How do I speak for myself, to myself, as I encourage others to do the same?’ South African Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 22, No. 6: 1131–1153.

McNiff, J. and Naidoo, A. (2007) How do we develop inclusional epistemologies for a new scholarship of democratic educational enquiry? Journal of Education, 41: 42–59.

Book Chapters

McNiff, J. (2019) (under contract) ‘Action Research: Hopes and Prospects’, in Sage Encyclopedia of Research Methods (eds P. Atkinson, S. Delamont, M. Hardy, M. Williams). London and Thousand Oaks: Sage.

McNiff, J. (2016) ‘Learning about Action Research in and From the Middle East’, in L. Rowell, C.D. Bruce, J.M. Shosh and M.M. Riel (eds) The Palgrave International Handbook of Action Research. pp. 251–263.

McNiff, J. (2013) ‘Taking action to combat HIV and Aids’, in L. Wood (ed.) Dealing with HIV and Aids in the classroom. Cape Town, Juta. pp. 69–87, Chapter 4.

McNiff, J. (2007) ‘My story is my living educational theory’, in D.J. Clandinin (ed.) Handbook of Narrative Inquiry: Mapping a methodology. Thousand Oaks, London and Delhi: Sage, pp 308–329. Chapter 12.

Conferences and keynote lectures

Conference papers

McNiff, J. (2010) Pedagogical action research in Higher Education: How do we improve our practices? Paper presented at the Collaborative Action Research Association, Annual Conference, Cambridge, November.

McNiff, J. (2010) Pedagogical research, living theory, and the virtuous university. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual conference, University of Warwick, September.

McNiff, J. (2010) How do I do and support pedagogical action research in higher education? Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, as part of the York St John symposium ‘Pedagogical Research for Improving Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’. University of Warwick, September.

McNiff, J. (2009) What kind of epistemologies can help us to live together successfully? How do we develop them? Paper presented at the International Conference on Peace and Reconciliation, UCLA, July.

McNiff, J. (2009) How do I justify my contributions to new institutional epistemologies for a new scholarship of educational knowledge? Paper presented at the symposium ‘Institutional research: How do we influence processes of epistemological transformation through the creation of academic practitioners’ living educational theories of practice?’ British Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, University of Manchester, September.

McNiff, J. (2009) How do I contribute to a reconceptualisation of educational theory for moral accountability in the creation of sustainable social orders? Paper Presented at the Practitioner Research Special Interest Group Symposium ‘Academic practitioner-researchers: shifting the epistemological centre in higher education’. University of Manchester, September.

McNiff, J. (2009) Learning for action in action. Paper presented at the Keynote Symposium of the British Educational Research Association ‘Explicating a New Epistemology for Educational Knowledge with Educational Responsibility.’ Manchester, University of Manchester, September.

McNiff, J. (2009) How do I contribute to a reconceptualisation of educational theory for moral accountability in the creation of sustainable social orders? Paper presented at the Practitioner Research Special Interest Group Symposium,' Academic practitioner-researchers: shifting the epistemological centre in higher education'. University of Manchester, September. Retrieved 6 March 2011

McNiff, J. (2009) How do I~we contribute to the development of new institutional epistemologies of Educational knowledge? Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association annual conference, University of Manchester, September. Retrieved 6 March 2011

Plenary and keynote lectures

McNiff, J. (2013): ‘The Invention and ReInvention of Knowledge.’ Keynote presentation at inaugural meeting of the Action Research Network of the Americas: San Francisco, May.

McNiff, J. (2012): ’Judging professionalism in professional education: what do we need to know and why do we need to know it?’ First English Language Teacher Education Summit, Beijing Normal University, October.

McNiff, J. (2012): ‘Demonstrating quality in action research’, at the first Leadership Research Conference, at the Institute for Educational Leadership, University of Malaya. June.

McNiff, J. (2012): ‘Celebrating the diversity of practitioner voices around the world’. 9th Annual Action Research Conference: Emergent Models in Action Research, University of San Diego. April.

McNiff, J. (2012): ‘Action Research for Teacher Education. End-of-pilot Zambia-Ireland Teacher Education Partnership (ZITEP) conference, University of Lusaka, April.

McNiff, J. (2012): ‘The basics of action research’. Open seminar for university faculty, University of Tromsø, February.

McNiff, J. (2011) Exploring Practice Based Research. Keynote paper presented at the British Early Childhood Education Research Association conference ‘The Art of Practice Based Inquiry: Early Childhood Professionals & Research’. Birmingham, February.

McNiff, J. (2011) The transformative potentials of action research: How do I understand ‘I’ in relation to ‘You’ so that we can work as a ‘We’? Keynote presentation at the Workshop on Alternative Research Paradigms and Indigenous Knowledge Production. Covenant University, Nigeria. February.

McNiff, J. (2010) Using our educational responsibilities to transform our violent histories into life-affirming futures. Keynote address to the University of the Free State staff colloquium, February.

McNiff, J. (2010) A Most Beautiful Game: Football and the spirit of action research. Keynote presentation at the conference ‘Action Research: Exploring its Transformative Potential.’ Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, August.

McNiff, J. (2009) The Power of One to the Power of a Million. Keynote presentation to the University of Qatar Action Research Conference. Doha, Qatar, June.

McNiff, J. (2009) The ABC of action research: supporting teachers personally and professionally. Keynote paper presented at the conference Supporting Teachers in a Challenging Environment, Kilkenny Education Centre, October

McNiff, J. (2008) Action Research, Transformational Influences: Past, present and future. Keynote address to the Staff Colloquium ‘PE Pays’, University of Limerick. February.

McNiff, J. (2008) Living Portfolios: Offering explanatory accounts for the lives we live. Keynote presentation at the Conference ‘Portfolios of and for Professional Development.’ International Association of Teachers as a Foreign Language, Exeter, April. Retrieved 6 March 2011.


Professional Activity

I regularly present workshops and talks to professional groups in recognised institutional settings – as in recent talks given at:

I regularly present my research papers at meetings of the British Educational Research Association, the Collaborative Action Research Network, the European Conference for Educational Research, the American Educational Research Association and the Action Research Network of the Americas: wherever possible I coordinate symposia through which the papers take on further contextualised meaning.

I teach on international masters and doctoral programmes, for businesses and higher education groups (as in the 2018 PhD action research course in Ski, Norway).

I enjoy organising and conducting international conferences collaboratively with others

For six years at York St John University I coordinated, with Professor Julian Stern, the series of international conferences ‘Value and Virtue in Practice-Based Research’, with a range of research publications as outputs.

A series of books is being developed from these conferences, with support from the Collaborative Action Research Network and its nominated journal Educational Action Research. I am a member of the editorial board of this journal, and undertake a good deal of review work for articles and book proposals, for this journal and for major international publishers including Sage, Routledge and Palgrave Macmillan. Because of my interest in writing as a way of enabling practitioners to speak for themselves and have their scholarly activities further recognised I set up my own publishing house, September Books, which acts as a vehicle for the further dissemination of practitioners’ work and a celebration of their capacity as competent and capable researchers and professionals.


Membership of editorial boards

Educational Action Research

Educational Research for Social Change

Turkish Online Journal of Qualitative Inquiry

Action Researcher in Education

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