I am lucky, as the school I have been working at has kindly agreed to let me use the school as a case study, which is ideal. As a school undergoing change and under new leadership, it provides an excellent opportunity for research. Added to which, one of the ways it is trying to improve student learning is through the building of a professional community in which all staff are involved in improving practice. As this was something I had been considering focusing my research on in my previous school, it means I can potentially use a lot of the reading I had already done.
The first couple of days back saw me make good progress, re-reading my notes and realising how much I could potentially use. But Tuesday was a little bit of a set back as I realised that while I have quite a clear idea of what want to know, I am not sure how I am going to go about finding it out.
So yesterday I went back to my notes about research methods and refreshed my mind with some of the basics.
I looked at some of the arguments about what is meant by educational research, how it can be conceptualised/ understood and why it might be done - these were my favourite ideas:
- educational research is not just 'rule-driven' means of 'finding out' what educators did not know before (or perhaps suspected!), but an approach to skillful and intellectual inquiry that is rooted in and shaped by a number of research traditions and by multiple ways of viewing the world we inhabit. (Morrison, 2007:14)
- A researcher’s job is 'not to just service change by promoting a preferred model but to actively describe, understand and explain change'. (Gunter, 2005: 166)
- practice without the enduring understandings of knowledge is blind, while knowledge detached from the world of practice remains impotent and pointless. (Ranson,1998: 50)
- it recognises that educational leadership is a social practice. It is about the interplay between agency and structure, and as such it enables respect for the reality of practice. (Gunter, 2005: 177)
- ‘Knowledge work is about ‘challenging sameness’ by ‘confronting strangeness’ , where practice means a refusal ‘to accept customs, rituals, and the familiar world unquestioningly’. (Smyth, 2001: 171-2)
Gunter (2005) states that 'the challenge is to ask questions about what field members know and need to know, what is worth knowing, how they know and practise that knowing and who does the knowing' and provides a useful typology for distinguishing between types of knowledge - technical, illuminative, critical, practical and positional.
I looked at some of the challenges involved
- keeping it relevant to practice
- defining leadership
- providing valid link between causal factors
- being aware of your objectivity (or lack of it) and the fact that objectivity is iteself value-laden
- the epistemological paradox: the act of making your experience explicit, by necessity changes it (Brown and Dowling, 1998: 7)
And I reviewed some potential research methods. Having originally planned to use the approach of action research, that is no longer a possibility as I will be doing research now as an 'outsider' (Dimmock). Today I reviewed case studies, grounded theory and narrative as possible approaches.
Bell, J., 2010. Doing your Research Project (5th ed.). Open University Press: England
Briggs, A. and Coleman, M., 2007. Research Methods in Educational Leadership (2nd ed.). SAGE: London. (particularly Introduction and Chapter 1)
Brown, A. and Dowling, P., 1998. Doing Research, Reading Research. Falmer Press: London
Gunter, H., 2005. Conceptualizing research in educational leadership. Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 33: 165-180
Today I want to continue exploring some of the ideas about how I conceptualise my research. I also want to do further reading on the research approaches I identified yesterday.