An examination of cooperative inquiry as a professional learning strategy for inner-city principals

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Lawson, Jennifer Elizabeth
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This dissertation describes a research study that investigated cooperative inquiry as a strategy for professional learning of inner-city school principals in a large urban centre in Western Canada. The study attempted to identify the central issues of concern and means of redress for school leaders in high-poverty communities, many of which focused on educational leadership, school management, the context of their schools within impoverished communities, and the challenges of personal well-being. The findings suggest that cooperative inquiry was an effective strategy in that the approach was participatory, democratic, empowering, life-enhancing, and fostered community-building among participants. The findings also suggest that the approach was effective in that it was grounded in the action research cycle of planning, action, observation, and reflection. The study further examined the use of dialogue as a means of constructing knowledge regarding these issues, and identified the ways in which such knowledge impacts upon the professional practice of these principals. Findings suggest that participants gained knowledge from each other, offered knowledge from others, constructed knowledge together as a group, and developed deeper understandings of their own perspectives. Findings also suggest that meaning is lost when dialogic interactions are transcribed into print. Thus, dialogue is a form of communication in and of itself, one that cannot simply be transformed into the written word without losing part of that dialogic essence. Further, this study posits that dialogue has unique power to be both a process for meaning making, as well as an ontological means of clarifying one’s own sense of reality.
education, school leadership, action research, inner-city schools, cooperative inquiry