The potential of practitioner-led action research (PLAR) to contribute to professional development in adult literacies work is considered from two perspectives. First, a recent initiative in Scotland is examined to illustrate PLAR implemented as professional development. The structural factors needing to be addressed for PLAR to contribute to practice are identified. These fall into three categories: time, funds and support from colleagues and line managers. Participants claimed to learn a great deal from their projects, would like to do more research and supported PLAR as professional development. They identified positive influences on practice and self-determination, while emphasising the importance of working conditions on these outcomes. Second, the broader picture of the role of PLAR in the formation of professional identity in the context of New Public Management is considered. This perspective emphasises PLAR's contribution to positioning educators as entrepreneurs, taking responsibility for and building their own professional identity. The conclusion calls for caution in the widespread adoption of PLAR as a professional development strategy.