Gordon Collaborative Action Research

Gordon, S.P. (June, 2009). Qualitative research on collaborative action research: Working the puzzle. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Ethnographic and Qualitative Research Conference. Cedarville, OH.

This study examined eight schools engaged in school-wide action research using qualitative research. Administrators, teacher leaders on research teams, other teachers, university critical friends, and professors and graduate students in graduate classes from each participating school served as participants. Data sources included interviews, action plans, network documents, field notes, and rubrics. The results indicated three groups of schools based on their performance - (1) high-performing schools, (2) coasters, and (3) wheel spinners. The researcher compared six critical aspects of action research among the three groups. Gordon defines the six critical aspects of action research as (1) leadership, (2) organization and planning, (3) collaboration, (4) support, (5) implementation, and (6) effects of action research.

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Questions I had:

  • The structure of leadership in the set-up of the action research seemed very hierarchical. The high-performing schools combated that structure. I wonder if the structure could have been set up differently to support shared leadership from the start rather than force cultures to be creative about how to circumvent the structure to be successful.
  • I wonder if individual teachers in the building ever experienced action research on an individual level. Would that factor impact the "success" of project?
  • Here the action research were project, which did result in developing a stance but only in high performing schools. Is it possible to develop a stance without first undertaking a formal project? Are there qualities that are inherent in those individuals who have a stance? Meaning, are some individuals predisposed to developing this disposition?
  • Were the university critical friends seen as outsiders? If so, that might impact involvement and success. Also, why weren't the critical friends participant/observers? They seemed to be "experts." Did they possess trusting relationships with the participants? If so, how were those relationships cultivated?
  • The author seems to imply that democratic, shared leadership implies a lack of involvement. In fact, I disagree, and his evidence appears to tell the same story. Shared leadership requires heavy investment, involvement, and support from administrators. Shared leadership implies involvement. 
  • Was this experience with action research the first for all of these schools? Were there mentoring opportunities from other schools in the network who had been successful?