This article outlines the experiences of educators in three teacher education institutes in the USA, Australia and the UK as they experiment with carrying out programmes based on ideas of action research. The emphasis is on experiences with programmes of initial education for secondary school teachers. A descriptive case study aimed to find out what critical issues teacher educators on the three courses experienced as they attempted to work with programmes based on ideas of action research and what we can learn from that. The data were gathered by means of semi-structured interviews.1 In this study action research is conceived as an interactive method by which teachers and student teachers can develop knowledge. The paper first presents the theoretical framework, followed by the research design and presentation of the findings and finally the conclusion and discussion. The educators in all three institutes reported that students mastered simple, non-systematic forms of reflection before they were able to carry out fully-fledged action research in a systematic way and that they learned to master action research by doing it. Courses extending over several years with ideas of action research running through them as a constant theme provided the most fertile ground for this. The programmes seemed to have the best chance of success when there was commitment, continuity and communication in the education team. It was also important that it was not only the institutes or only the schools that had a say over the education of teachers: a shared say created better conditions for programmes based on action research.