Title

Sociocultural Learning And The Hope For School Change: Participatory Action Research At A Public Elementary School

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Published In

Theory, Research, And Action In Urban Education

Abstract

Educational reform in the United States has failed to adequately account for the complexities of urban schooling. Instead of spurring systematic school change, these oftentimes bureaucratic and authoritarian reform efforts have inspired widespread institutional distrust, which undermines improvement efforts and demoralizes school professionals. Persistent failure of “top-down” reform has fueled the use of democratic or “bottom-up” approaches to more sufficiently grapple with the highly dynamic nature of urban public schools. Participatory Action Research (PAR) has become an increasingly popular inquiry method to facilitate robust and democratic institutional change, whereby university-based researchers and school practitioners co-construct knowledge through a collaborative inquiry process. This 10-month case study (2010-2011) employed sociocultural learning theory and the tenets of PAR to examine its implementation at a public elementary school in a major northeastern city. In order to ameliorate a distressing school issue, participant interviews (N=10), school observations (+100 hours), and typewritten reflections (i.e., weekly memos; 100-200 words) captured detailed narratives associated with the evolution, challenges, as well as effective practice of PAR within a university and school partnership. Four interrelated themes of PAR implementation emerged: (1) hopes for the project; (2) vision of team roles; (3) learning through boundary crossing; and (4) boundary object potential.

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