Democratizing knowledge of teaching and learning through student leadership projects

May, 2019

Source: Educational Action Research, 27:3, 396-413

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Research process
The members of the project research team included 11 practicing K-8 teachers, a coach from Franklin Covey education, a Master of Arts in Teaching Fellow, and an education professor.
The theoretical frameworks for the project centered on the work of Stephen R. Covey (Covey et al. 2014; Covey 2004) and the literature of knowledge democracy (Rowell and Hong 2017; Hall 2013).
Team members took turns leading the weekly group meetings in discussions about Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people as well as his eighth habit, or finding your voice and helping others to find theirs
During the fall, spring, and summer terms of the 2016–2017 academic year, the 14 members of the research team met weekly on the campus of Moravian College to plan, implement, critique, and write-up studies of student leadership in grades K-8 (5 to 13-year-olds).
The team worked on identifying needs, designing and conducting site-based action research projects, and planning for knowledge dissemination.
In addition to implementing the respective data collection plans, team members posted to a weekly blog on Emodo and analyzed data throughout the process within a series of reflective and analytic memos, including discourse analysis of a significant speech event, a figurative language analysis, a coding analysis with emergent themes, a first-person narrative or i-story, an additional narrative form, a final reflective memo, and a series of PowerPoint slides for public presentation of research methodology and findings (Shosh 2017, 2016).
Beginning with the end in mind (a Covey principle), the team members agreed that they would write up their research narratives about student leadership for publication in a book, and that the lead author, as the university-based research partner, would suggest ongoing methodological possibilities, edit the collective volume, and seek out opportunities to share the team’s work via professional conferences and publication venues.

Global assembly workshop and student leadership action research
The decision to participate in the regional workshop process was based on some team members’ recognition that their local initiative reflected and might contribute to larger developments in the global action research community.
The regional workshops were convened around the world in the spring of 2017 in preparation for the June 2017 1st Global Assembly for Knowledge Democracy (GAKD).
Organizers were invited to focus on the question: to what extent can epistemological, ideological and political differences be reconciled in the interest of a sustainable and socially just world?
In preparing their report for the Global Assembly the team identified three questions that had emerged as critical guides for deepening their reflections related to the individual participatory research projects team members were conducting and to the overall purpose of the Lehigh Valley initiative:
(1) Why is it important that public school children continue to have opportunities like those that they researched?
(2) What advantages does teacher action research offer over traditional in-service based professional development models?
(3) Why does it matter that teachers have the opportunity to do research, write books, and create knowledge? What are the implications for student leaders?
In coming back together as a whole group they also completed a first draft of guidelines for year-based educational action research focused on student leadership development in the Lehigh Valley.

Summary of findings
For the team members, action research is about much more than earning a master’s degree or additional credits to move higher on a salary scale (Shosh 2016; Shosh and McAteer 2016).
They believe that their public schools are at their best when all stakeholders are working collaboratively to bring about much-needed change for the public good, and action research is a powerful tool for fostering such collaboration.
The guidelines developed through the initiative reported here emerged in the context of interactions among a team of teacher-researchers, consultants, and a university faculty member.
The primary focus of the initiative was on examining student leadership development in schools in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, USA in the context of applying principles developed by author Stephen Covey.
In particular, the initiative sought to encourage action research and participatory action research in relation to Covey’s ideas for transforming schools and communities through development of ‘the leader in me.’
In addition, through organizing a regional workshop in conjunction with preparations for the 1st Global Assembly for Knowledge Democracy, initiative participants explored links between student leadership development, teacher research, and the democratization of research in education.
Major findings of the project include guidelines for conducting participatory action research on student leadership development in the region’s schools and deepened understanding in the regions’ public schools of opportunities for teacher and student involvement in knowledge production and dissemination.
The team has shared the findings through a sampling of data and reflections gathered in more than a dozen elementary and middle schools in the Lehigh Valley community.
Detailed explanations of their respective teaching contexts, research methods, and findings are presented in their forthcoming 15-chapter volume: Researching the Leader in Me: Transforming Teaching, Learning, and Leading in the K-8 Classroom (Shosh 2019).

Covey, S.R. 2004. The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. New York: Free Press.
Covey, S.R., S. Covey, M. Summers, and D.K. Hatch. 2014. The Leader in Me: How Schools around the World are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time. New York: Simon & Schuster
Hall, B. 2013. “Transforming the Basis of Knowledge.” Global Edition, No. 273
Rowell, L.L., and E. Hong. 2017. “Knowledge Democracy and Action Research: Pathways for the Twenty-First Century.” In The Palgrave International Handbook of Action Research, edited by L. L. Rowell, C.D. Bruce, J.M. Shosh, and M.M. Riel, 63–83. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
Shosh, J.M. 2016. “Constructing Comenian Third Spaces for Action Research in Graduate Teacher Education.” In Values and Virtues in Higher Education: Critical Perspectives, edited by J. McNiff, pp. 141–154. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Shosh, J.M. 2017. “Toward the Construction of a Local Knowledge Base on Teaching and Learning by and for Teachers and Learners.” In Palgrave International Handbook of Action Research, edited by L.L. Rowell, C.D. Bruce, J.M. Shosh, and M.M. Reil, 647–665. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Shosh, J.M., ed. 2019. Researching the Leader in Me: Transforming Teaching, Learning, and Leading in the K-8 Classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Updated: Dec. 03, 2019