Special Education Director Leadership Styles Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

More importantly, our appreciative and participatory stance with our co-researchers has allowed us to witness and learn about the cutting edge of leadership work in such a way that is and feels qualitatively different from other research traditions we have used in the past, because it is built on valuing. Even though it is challenging at times (Ospina et al. 2002), our inquiry space is enhanced by our collaboration with the social change leaders. (Schall, Ospina, Godsoe and Dodge, nd)

Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative research methods are those of:

(1) Phenomenology -- this is a form of qualitative research in which the researcher focuses on gaining understanding of how an individual or individuals experience a phenomenon.

(2) Ethnography -- qualitative research that focuses on the culture of a group and describing that culture.

(3) Case Study Research -- form of qualitative research that provides a detailed account of a case or cases.

(4) Grounded theory -- qualitative research method which generates and develops a theory from data collected by the researcher.

(5) Historical research -- collection of events that happened in the past.

The work of Flick, et al. (2004) entitled: "A Companion to Qualitative Research" states that the practice of qualitative research "is generally characterized by the fact that there is no single method, but a spectrum of methods belonging to different approaches that may be selected according to the research questions and the research tradition." Stated to be a central feature of qualitative research is "the appropriateness of methods: for almost every procedure it is possible to ascertain for which particular research-object it was developed. The starting point was normally that the previously available methods were not suited to this specific purpose." (Flick, et al., 2004)

The example stated is that "the narrative interview was originally developed for the analysis of communal power processes, and objective hermeneutics for studies of socializing interaction. It is typical of qualitative research that the object of investigations and the questions that are brought to bear represent the point of reference for the selection and evaluation of methods and not -- as often still generally happens in psychology with its emphasis on experiments -- that everything cannot be investigated by particular methods is excluded from the research." (Flick, et al., 2004)

Flick et al. (2004) additionally notes that qualitative research is strongly oriented to everyday events "or the everyday knowledge that is under investigation." (Flick, et al., 2004) The example stated is that action processes "are situated in everyday context." (Flick, et al., 2004) Because of this qualitative data collection or the analytical and interpretive procedures tied to a great extent to the idea of conceptuality and data are collected "in their natural context and analysis of statements is in the "context of an extended answer or narrative, or the total course of an interview, or even in the biography of the interview partner." (Flick et al., 2004)

Attention is given to the various views of participants and an integral component of qualitative research is the researcher's ability to reflect concerning his or her actions and observations in the investigation field and this is a critical factor in the discovery and not "a source of disturbance that needs to be monitored or eliminated." (Flick et al., 2004) Qualitative research has as its "epistemological principle…the understanding of complex relationships rather than explanation by isolation of a single relationship such as 'cause-and-effect'." (Flick, et al., 2004)

Qualitative research involves oriented understanding in regards to "methodically controlled understanding of otherness' towards comprehension of the perspective to the other party." (Flick, et al., 2004) It important that this perspective is given "as much freedom of movement as possible to get as close to it as possible, data collection in qualitative research is characterized, above all, by the principle of openness." (Flick et al., 2004)

Questions in qualitative research are formulated as open and ethnographical observations are not aligned to a rigid grid of observation but as well are formulated in an open manner. Qualitative research is generally started with "the analysis or reconstruction of (individual cases) and then only proceed as a second steps, to summarizing or contrasting these cases from a comparative or generalizing viewpoint. Furthermore, qualitative research assumes the construction of reality -- the subjective constructions of those under investigation and the research process as a constructive act." (Flick et al., 2004)

Qualitative research further produces data "in the form of texts -- transcribed interviews…ethnographic fieldwork notes…" and focuses "in the majority of its interpretive procedures on the textual medium as a basis for its work." (Flick, et al., 2004) Flick et al. lists the characteristics of qualitative research practice as follows:

1. Spectrum of methods rather than single method;

2. Appropriateness of methods;

3. Orientation of everyday events and/or everyday knowledge;

4. Contextuality as a guiding principle;

5. Perspectives of Participants

6. Reflective capability of the investigator;

7. Understanding as a discovery principle;

8. Principle of openness;

9. Case analysis as a starting point;

10. Construction of reality as a basis;

11. Qualitative research as a textual discipline;

12. Discovery and theory formation as a goal. (Flick, et al., 2004)

Mixed Methods -- Qualitative and Quantitative Research Combined

The work of Condelli and Wrigley (2004) states that the "…value of, and need for, objective, methodologically sound research is undeniable." The value of research of a more traditional nature is stated to be a method that Condelli and Wrigley as well as other researchers recognize it is also held that "a more interactive reciprocal research and development model that combines evidence from previous research studies with the professional wisdom" of the educator involved in the research initiative plays a role that is critical in the conduction of research. It is the view of Condelli and Wrigley that the optimal design for research is one that is a mixed method design characterized by the integration of both qualitative and quantitative research. Condelli and Wrigley relate that this type of research design starts with a sound research methodology and quantitative methods enhanced with qualitative measures of key processes and outcomes." (2004)

The research design by the use of qualitative methods including case studies and interviews which provide data that is conducive to gaining insight about "how findings work and how findings can be translated to practice." (Condelli and Wrigley, 2004) Quantitative methods of research alone may identify what is effective and what works however, there is limited power of explanation in that "there is little information about how students learned and how instruction worked." (Condelli and Wrigley, 2004)

Qualitative research designs make the provision of "rich information about learners and teaching' however this information "is more subjective and cannot be generalized." (Condelli and Wrigley, 2004) Combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods enables an understanding that is richer by far. The use of a rigorous quantitative research design informs the researcher as to 'what' works and the qualitative research design informs the research as to 'how' it works. (Condelli and Wrigley, 2004, paraphrased)

Condelli and Wrigley state various observation-based instructional strategies and the characteristic practices associated with each strategy. The first of these is the 'Varied Practice and Interaction' strategy. Teachers are stated to:

(1) engage in direct teaching;

(2) keep students involved and engaged;

(3) provide feedback on student progress; and (4) allow ample opportunities for practice.

Students are given the opportunity within the varied practice and interaction strategy to:

(1) work together in solving problems;

(2) spend the time it takes them on a task to 'get it';

(3) engage in different types of learning;

(4) use multiple modes of learning; and (5) learn from one another. (Condelli and Wrigley, 2004)

The second stated strategy is that of 'Open Communications' and teachers are stated within the framework of this strategy to:

(1) be flexible and responsive to needs of students;

(2) ask open-ended questions; and (3) support open and authentic conversation. (Condelli and Wrigley, 2004)

In the Open Communication strategy students are able to:

(1) contribute ideas upon the basis of their experience; and (2) express themselves without immediate correction. (Condelli and Wrigley, 2004)

The third strategy is stated as 'Connection to the Outside World' and is a strategy in which teachers:

(1) share overall lesson goals;

(2) link lessons to real life; and (3) bring outside into the classroom. (Condelli and Wrigley, 2004)

Students have the opportunity to apply class lessons to challenges outside the classroom in the use of this strategy. (Condelli and Wrigley, 2004) The next strategy is stated to be that of 'Choices and Thinking' and is a strategy that is characterized by teachers providing students with choices. This strategy allows students the opportunity to:

(1) make decisions about the ways they learn; and (2) think about tasks and decide how to approach it. (Condelli and Wrigley, 2004)

The following chart lists the three methods of: (1) quantitative; (2)…

Sources Used in Document:


Betts, Dion E. (2008) Professional Learning Communities and Special education: We Are Gathering Student Performance Data, Now What? PA Administrator.

Blaydes, John (2004) Survival skills for the principalship: a treasure chest of time-savers, short-cuts, and strategies to help you keep a balance in your life. Corwin Press, 2004.

Condelli, Larry and Wrigley, Heide Spruck (2004) Real World Research: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Research for Adult ESL paper was presented at the National Research and Development Centre (NRDC) Second International Conference for Adult Literacy and Numeracy, Loughborough, England, March 25-27, 2004.

Cotton, K. (1996). School size, school climate, and student performance (School Improvement Research Series, Close-Up #20). Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Retrieved September 30, 2006, from http://www.nwrel.org/scpd/sirs/10/c020.html

Cite This Thesis:

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