Research in educational leadership and management spans settings from early childhood to tertiary education and life-long learning. From its mid-20th-century beginnings as a tool for organizing educational systems, the wide range of methodologies in present use reflects the shifting focus of the field. The current mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches indicates differing epistemological stances and a range of purposes from instrumental responses to government policy initiatives, through investigation of issues of social justice, to personal enquiry into leadership influence on environments for learning. Research in the field encompasses the values and dilemmas underpinning educational leadership roles, the enactment of middle leadership, teacher leadership and student leadership, and includes leaders conducting research to improve their own practice. Multiple aspects of decision-making are involved in educational leadership research. The philosophical assumptions of researchers inform their positivist or interpretivist stance and the associated choices of quantitative or qualitative methodology. The external drivers of the investigation, together with its purpose and scope, influence the choice of research approach —for example, data-mining, survey, case study, action research—and technique—interview, questionnaire, documentary analysis, narrative, and life-history. These approaches and techniques in turn invite a range of analytical methods, from statistical modeling, systematic qualitative data analysis and discourse analysis to auto-ethnographic critical reflection and reflective narrative. The interpretation of the analysis hinges on the purpose of the research: to understand, inform, improve, or bring about change. Twenty-first-century challenges for the field include expanding theory beyond a largely Western-centric focus; responding to the development of new theories of leadership, including the voice of non-leaders in perspectives on leadership; ensuring that research informs policy rather than vice versa; and addressing the sheer volume and nature of data available through emerging technologies.
Ann Briggs and Marianne Coleman
Lesley Bartlett and Frances Vavrus
Case studies in the field of education often eschew comparison. However, when scholars forego comparison, they are missing an important opportunity to bolster case studies’ theoretical generalizability. Scholars must examine how disparate epistemologies lead to distinct kinds of qualitative research and different notions of comparison. Expanded notions of comparison include not only the usual logic of contrast or juxtaposition but also a logic of tracing, in order to embrace approaches to comparison that are coherent with critical, constructivist, and interpretive qualitative traditions. Finally, comparative case study researchers consider three axes of comparison: the vertical, which pays attention across levels or scales, from the local through the regional, state, federal, and global; the horizontal, which examines how similar phenomena or policies unfold in distinct locations that are socially produced; and the transversal, which compares over time.
Zoe Martínez-de-la-Hidalga and Lourdes Villardón-Gallego
Many studies and publications have been devoted to the analysis and development of teacher identity from different points of view, using diverse instruments and methodologies and analyzing different dimensions of identity. Despite the scrutiny, it is still a challenge to understand and define an issue as complex as professional identity. Although there is no clear unanimity on the concept of identity itself, several characteristics have been identified from different approaches. Thus, aspects such as personal unity, stability over time, and across situations and contexts contrast with such features as multiplicity, discontinuity, and a social nature. Faced with this dichotomy, the dialogic perspective explains the complexity of the construct by proposing that the aforementioned features are linked respectively and dialectically. In other words, the various dimensions of identity, along with their variability through time and the influence exerted by social and contextual aspects, are combined with personal unity, with stability over time, and across situations and contexts. This can, occasionally, lead to conflict and contradictions that the individual strives to manage through self-dialogue. Focusing in the dialogic conceptualization, several implications for research are identified. Firstly, it disallows static categorizations of teachers and places the focus on grasping the self-dialogue that allows teachers to maintain a certain degree of stability and coherence in their identity over time. Secondly, it showcases the effect that dialogue and participation-focused research can have on professional development. Additionally, the study of identity in all its complexity and mutability advocates the integrated study of two levels of analysis: On the one hand, there is the position and actions of teachers in different contexts and situations; and, on the other, there is their professional story, past, present and future, along with the sociocultural factors that have impacted it. According to this dialogic approach, both the research on the professional identity and the teacher training should incorporate strategies that promote dialogue on actual performance and on professional careers. To this effect, longitudinal designs help capture the dialogue between stability and change. Still, transversal studies can be undeniably useful to identify current conflicts that might arise between personal and professional roles, as well as how such conflicts are managed. Furthermore, qualitative methodologies have a great potential to generate self-dialogues that provide insight into how teachers live, perceive, and manage such conflicts. Finally, research should be participative in nature so that teachers abandon their role as objects of research and become, instead, its subjects, in collaboration with researchers. In this manner, research on identity leads to changes in the professional identity of participants, in addition to furthering the knowledge available on the subject. Action research follows these guidelines, and it is therefore especially suited to this endeavor. Based on this characterization of the research on professional identity, some techniques are suggested for the collection of information because they foster reflection and consequently also promote development of identity. Some of these techniques are: life stories, narrative of teaching, diaries, case studies, critical events analysis, professional dilemmas, teacher or teaching metaphors, and inquiry-based learning.
Qualitative analysis—the analysis of textual, visual, or audio data—covers a spectrum from confirmation to exploration. Qualitative studies can be directed by a conceptual framework, suggesting, in part, a deductive thrust, or driven more by the data itself, suggesting an inductive process. Generic or basic qualitative research refers to an approach in which researchers are simply interested in solving a problem, effecting a change, or identifying relevant themes rather than attempting to position their work in a particular epistemological or ontological paradigm. Other qualitative traditions include grounded theory, narrative analysis, and phenomenology. Grounded theory encompasses several approaches, including objectivist and constructivist traditions, and commonly invites researchers to theorize a process and perhaps identify its contexts and consequences. Narrative analysis is an approach that treats stories not only as representations of events but as narrative events in themselves. Researchers using this approach analyze the form and content of narrative data and examine how these elements serve the storyteller and the story. Other elements often considered include plot, genre, character, values, resolutions, and motifs. Phenomenology is an approach designed to “open up” a phenomenon and make sense of its invariant structure, its identifiable essence across all narrative accounts. In this approach, the focus is on the lived experiences of those deeply familiar with the phenomenon and how they experience the phenomenon as they are going through it, before it is categorized and conceptualized. Each tradition has its own investigative emphasis and particular tools for analysis—specific approaches to coding, memo writing, and final products, such as diagrams, matrices, and condensed reports.
S. Anthony Thompson
Investigative practices, including research methodologies, approaches, processes, as well as knowledge dissemination efforts continue to evolve within inclusive or special education. So too do such practices evolve within related fields such as nursing, psychology, community-based care, health promotion, etc. There are several research approaches that promote the tools required to effect inclusive education, such as: evidence-based practice (EBP), EBP in practice, creative secondary uses of (anonymous) data, collective impact, qualitative evidence synthesis (QES), and lines of action (LOA). Other approaches that promote a more inclusive education research agenda more generally, include action research and participatory action research, inclusive research, appreciative inquiry, and arts-based educational research.