Action research has become a common practice among educational administrators. The term “action research” was first coined by Kurt Lewin in the 1930s, although teachers and school administrators have long engaged in the process described by and formally named by Lewin. Alternatively known as practitioner research, self-study, action science, site-based inquiry, emancipatory praxis, etc., action research is essentially a collaborative, democratic, and participatory approach to systematic inquiry into a problem of practice within a local context. Action research has become prevalent in many fields and disciplines, including education, health sciences, nursing, social work, and anthropology. This prevalence can be understood in the way action research lends itself to action-based inquiry, participation, collaboration, and the development of solutions to problems of everyday practice in local contexts. In particular, action research has become commonplace in educational administration preparation programs due to its alignment and natural fit with the nature of education and the decision making and action planning necessary within local school contexts. Although there is not one prescribed way to engage in action research, and there are multiple approaches to action research, it generally follows a systematic and cyclical pattern of reflection, planning, action, observation, and data collection, evaluation that then repeats in an iterative and ongoing manner. The goal of action research is not to add to a general body of knowledge but, rather, to inform local practice, engage in professional learning, build a community practice, solve a problem or understand a process or phenomenon within a particular context, or empower participants to generate self-knowledge.
Eileen S. Johnson
Karen Moran Jackson and Ric Brown
Making appropriate methodological and analytic decisions in educational research requires a thorough grounding in the literature and a thorough understanding of the chosen methodology. Detailed preplanning is important for all method types and includes an understanding of the assumptions, limitations, and delimitations of the study. For quantitative research, researchers should be cautious with data analysis decisions that give preference to statistically significant results, noting that quantitative research can proceed with intents other than confirmatory hypothesis testing. Decisions and procedures that are used to search for low p values, rather than answer the driving research question, are especially problematic. Presentation of quantitative results should include components that clarify and account for analytic choices, that report all relevant statistical results, and that provide sufficient information to replicate the study. Consideration should also be given to joining recent initiatives for more transparency in research with the use of preregistered studies and open data repositories. For qualitative research, researchers should be thoughtful about choosing a specific method for their project that appropriately matches the method’s framework and analytic procedures with the research aim and anticipated sample. Qualitative researchers should also strive for transparency in their method description by allowing for a view of the analytic process that drove the data collection and iterative dives into the data. Presentation of qualitative results requires a balance between providing a compelling narrative that establishes the trustworthiness of results with the judicious use of participant voices. Mixed methods research also requires appropriate integration of different data types.
Melissa M. Jozwiak and Karen L. B. Burgard
It is essential that universities and local or government agencies begin to work together to do unconventional and impactful research that is mutually sustaining to both partners. When done well, the partnerships will strengthen the positions of each institution to continue to do their work and create new opportunities for equity and advancement. The challenges associated with building these types of partnerships are numerous, but even more challenges exist when the partnerships are committed to working in solidarity. To create partnerships that are examples of solidarity leading to mutual sustainability, partners must be intentional about using an ecological-systems model to shape the decision-making process. In doing so, the partners enact an Ecologically Sustaining Research Partnership (ESRP), which ensures that both partners are strengthened by and exist beyond the life of the partnership. Importantly, ESRPs are committed to equity and empowerment and use the ecological-systems model to shift the basis of power in favor of commonly oppressed groups. This emancipatory approach to research is essential for the field of early childhood, but it can also be expanded to guide partnerships between universities and communities across disciplines.
Yu Zhang and Xuan Qi
Education inequality has been a challenging issue worldwide, and disparity across schools constitutes a significant proportion of total inequality. Effective policies to turn around low-performing schools (LPS) are therefore of great importance to both governments and students. The Elite School Education Group (ESEG) policy is an emerging one, and it has quickly become very influential in China, a country with one of the largest and most diversified education systems in the world. Under this policy, elite public schools (EPS), which have exceptionally enriched educational resources (i.e., high-quality teachers, strong principal leadership, excellent school cultures, etc.), are encouraged by the government to build school groups with LPS. Within the school group under the elite school brand, branch schools (i.e., the previous LPS) can share all kinds of resources from the EPS (including teachers and principals), and they may even utilize the prestige of the brand itself as a means to attract high-performing students. The ESEG policy enables the delivery of multiple turnaround interventions to LPS in an autonomous way, through building partnerships between EPS and LPS. While some LPS are successfully turned around, some are not. It depends on the effectiveness of the reforms undertaken in the branch schools. Of particular importance is the access to strong principal leadership, excellent teachers, and the school cultures from EPS. Incentives for EPS to participate in this reform include obtaining flexibility in personnel management, expanding school scale and influence, and mobilizing other resources. Despite the potential positive influence on the branch schools, the ESEG policy may have a more complex influence on the entire education ecology than initially expected. Indeed, there are now some concerns that the ESEG is creating new LPS, because more and more high-performing students are drawn out of normal schools and attracted to the ESEG-partnered schools during admission. Thus, the effectiveness of the ESEG policy should not be solely based on attracting high-performing students, but on improving overall education quality.
In Japan, various styles of Lesson Study (LS) have been born over 140 years. The first issue is what should be the focus of observation in the live lesson. There are two trends with regard to the target of observation. One is teacher- and lesson-plan-centered observation since the Meiji era (1870s), and the other is child-centered observation since the Taisho era (1910s). The former is closely related to administrative-led teacher training. The latter is more complex and can be further divided into five types. The second issue is which activities are given priority in the LS processes: observation of the live lesson itself, preparation before the lesson, or reflection after the lesson. Furthermore, each activity can be designed as a personal or a collaborative process. Thus, there are roughly six types of LS in Japan related to this issue. Which type is adopted depends on the period, lesson-study frequency, and school type. In addition, it is noteworthy that the type of LS implemented is closely related to which of demonstration teacher or observers are regarded as the central learners. The third issue is whether to regard LS as scientific research or as literary research. Teachers and researchers in 1960s Japan had strong interest in making lessons and lesson studies more scientific. On the other hand, as teachers attempt to become more scientific, they cannot but deny their daily practice: making improvised decisions on complicated situations without objective evidence. Although lesson studies have been revised in various forms and permutations over the last 140, formalization and ceremonialization of lesson studies has become such that many find lesson studies increasingly meaningless and burdensome. What has become clear through the discussions on the three issues, the factors that impede teacher learning in LS are summarized in the following four points; the bureaucracy controlled technical expert model, exclusion of things that are not considered scientific, the view of the individualistic learning model, and the school culture of totalitarian products. To overcome obstruction of teachers’ education in LS and the school crisis around the 1980s, the “innovative LS Cases” has begun in the 1990s. The innovative LS aims not for as many teachers as possible but for every teacher to learn at high quality. In the innovative LS Case, what teachers are trying to learn through methods of new LS is more important than methods of new LS itself. Although paradoxical, in order to assist every single teacher to engage in high quality learning inside school, LS is inadequate. It is essential that LS address not only how to actualize every single teacher to learn with high quality in LS but also through LS how to improve collegiality which enhances daily informal collaborative learning in teachers room. Furthermore, LS cannot be established as LS alone, and the school reform for designing a professional learning community is indispensable. Finally, the concept of “the lesson study of lesson study (LSLS)” for sustainable teacher professional development is proposed through organizing another professional learning communities among managers and researchers.
Brigitte Smit and Mapula Mabusela
Relational leadership and responsible leadership are important subjects in the literature, and more attention can be paid to these leadership practices in educational leadership. Most educational leadership studies focus on distributed, instructional, teacher, and transformational leadership using mostly quantitative research. The aim is to explore and describe relational and responsible leadership in the context of educational leadership. Qualitative research methodology such as narrative inquiry is not often used for inquiries into educational leadership studies. Moreover, the scholarship on narrative inquiry as a relational methodology for relational and responsible educational leadership is scant, and there is a need to broaden the discussion to include appropriate the concepts of relational leadership and responsible leadership for educational leadership in a context of relational narrative inquiry. Relational and responsible leadership theories can be appropriated through a relational research methodology using narrative inquiry. These scholarly lenses may add value to school leadership research and to school leaders who wish to transform and change leadership practices, specifically in diverse school communities with challenging and problematic educational landscapes.