Academic journal article Education

Professional Growth through Self-Reflection and Writing

Academic journal article Education

Professional Growth through Self-Reflection and Writing

Article excerpt

Professional Growth through Self-Reflection and Writing

The purpose of this article is to reflect upon the experiences in conducting my dissertation research in the United States. It explains how I got interested in the dissertation topic and began the study, how I collected and analyzed the study data, and what went on during the research process as well as participants' reactions to me as the researcher. My aim is to provide an example for how to use the "self-reflection" (Sch6n, 1983) and "writing" (Greenwood, 1991) processes as two important means of personal and professional growth.

A Constructivist Approach to Research

I designed my study to understand, describe, and interpret the Accelerated Schools process undertaken by an elementary school in central Ohio through the voices and experiences of participants. For this purpose, I applied a "qualitative case study approach" described by Merriam (1988). 1 chose this methodology for three reasons: (a) the study problem lent itself to seeking a holistic understanding of the change process in the natural school setting; (b) this method provided me with the opportunity to study change from participants' own perspectives as it unfolded rather than after it was completed; and (c) I was interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of participants' concerns about the Accelerated Schools transformation process. This is also to share Merriam's position: "Research focused on discovery, insight, and understanding from the perspectives of those being studied offers the greatest promise of making significant contributions to the knowledge base and practice of education" (p. 3).

Choosing the research topic

In May 1996, with the suggestion of my academic advisor, I contacted the Southern (pseudonym) School District's Curriculum and Instruction director and explained my interest in pursuing a dissertation study in one of the district's schools. The district was implementing the site-based decision making model, and I was originally interested in studying several aspects of teacher participation in the school decision-making process and its impact on teachers' professional growth. So I was looking for a school where I could spend time and be together with the participants.

Following the elementary school principals' meeting in the district, I was informed that three principals had expressed interest in having me conduct the study in their schools. One of these three schools, Rainbow (pseudonym), was implementing the Accelerated Schools model and had initiated a transformation process in the 1995-1996 school year to become an accelerated school. As I began to read in this area, I realized that my original topic represented only one dimension of the Accelerated Schools process, saw the need for understanding the whole picture, and decided to change the theme of my dissertation.

Entering the site

After deciding about the topic, I was introduced to the principal by the district's Curriculum and Instruction director. Permission to conduct the study at the school was granted by the principal in late May 1996. Gaining access to the study site as well as keeping it were important. Therefore, although I was granted permission by the principal to conduct the study at the school, I was concerned about obtaining permission from classroom teachers and other participants as well. As I met teachers in the school, I explained to them the purpose of my study and invited them to participate. After initial short visits to the school in fall 1996, teachers volunteered to be interviewed and observed over the course of the study.

Early days in the site

Most of the early days at the study school happened to be fortuitous and were used to get to know staff members as well as to figure out what was where. My purpose was to make myself present in the school, for I was a total stranger to the school community; I wanted to become better acquainted with the people and the culture of the school. …

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