What We Do
The Center is committed to helping schools engage in research in the service of action. Our participatory action research (PAR) model is rooted in several principles. First and foremost, PAR is fundamentally democratic and constituency-based. This principle means we want to help schools look at problems that administrators, teachers and students care about and believe are important. Second, we make every effort to conduct research that is rigorously empirical. The third principle underlying our approach to PAR is that the school projects are both reflective and interpretive. Fourth, PAR should lead to action. By this, we mean the findings of our joint research efforts should result in practical outcomes that matter to the people involved (boys, girls, teachers, administrators, parents).
The Center is comprised of coeducational, coordinate and single sex, day and boarding schools. Each school has organized action research teams to explore key questions related to boys’ and girls’ education, guided and supported by Center staff. These teams present their work to each other at an annual Roundtable conference.
In our school collaboration, we have found that the support, cross-school dialogue and challenge, and an annual forum for presentations to fellow teacher–researchers, offer particular benefits that reinforce the value of evidence-based educational practice. A discovery process grounded in classroom questions, relationships, and action plans, one that is reinforced by a cross-school community of inquiry, creates connections that keeps schools engaged even when they are challenged by their own findings.
We believe such a research collaborative has several additional benefits. First and foremost, it develops within each school a culture of data-based decision-making. Second, if done well, the democratic organization of the school research projects has the practical benefit of engaging enough appropriate people that it builds support for the project, something that when not done well leads to the kinds of good projects we all have come across marooned on the shoals of community indifference. Third, planned and done well, collaborative research generates renewed energy, enthusiasm and passion among teachers, administrators and students for making schools better for children, for improving their lives and enhancing their success: professional development wedded to practical discovery and curricular reform. Fourth, and finally, well done collaborative research adds to broader scientific understanding.