In the post-Franco context of the 1960s in Spain, we asked ourselves what type of changes were necessary for the teaching profession to respond to the demands of a democratic society. This article reflects the discourse developed over many years within the personal experience of one of those young people who received John Elliott's seminal work back at that time and their intellectual influence in the years since. It is concerned to see to what extent action research makes sense in education, within the context of the cultural change we are immersed in today. The debate about who rules the change can be reformulated today again within the socio-political and cultural context of the present moment of modernity. But the paradox of the change dilemmas cannot be resolved, but constitute the essence of action research; they are its justification. It is argued that a central feature of this new state of modernity is the recognition of uncertainty and deliberation is seen as a basic means to face it. While the structure of the systems tends to reproduce through different means the conventional model of dual systems and professional models based on technical rationality, educational discourse very often emphasises the discourse which emerged in the new age of liquid modernity. This contradiction leads to three possible scenarios, each with important practical consequences on curricular development, on teaching professionalism and on the type of research required. Each of these is considered. © 2003, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.