Applied Research for Sustainable Change

Applied Research for Sustainable Change A Guide for Education Leaders

Sharon M. Ravitch and Nicole Mittenfelner Carl
paper, 232 Pages
Pub. Date: September 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-394-9
Price: $35.00

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In Applied Research for Sustainable Change, Sharon M. Ravitch and Nicole Mittenfelner Carl draw on twenty years of teaching and research to offer an incisive guide to practitioner-led qualitative research. They make the case for “local knowledge generation”—inquiry-based, school-level research that can contextualize quantitative data, enrich insight, and guide leaders in making more effective decisions leading to sustainable organizational change.


In an age of data fetishism, this book puts the inquiry back into ‘data use’ and redefines what counts as data for school professionals. Teachers and leaders who want to lead through collaborative learning will cherish this book. — Gary L. Anderson, professor, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University

If you ever struggled with how to effectively design and lead a research team, then look no further because Applied Research for Sustainable Change has developed the road map. The strategies laid out in this book provide all that you and your colleagues will need to become a true applied research team. — Wagner Marseille, superintendent of schools, Cheltenham School District, Pennsylvania

Overall, this book is a useful primer for undertaking inquiry for educational change. There is a real need for more research on effective practices for engaging in site-specific, applied, qualitative research to foster change, and this work contributes to addressing that need. — Teachers College Record

If you are struggling with ideas for your own applied research, I encourage you to read Applied Research for Sustainable Change: A Guide for Education Leaders by Sharon M. Ravitch and Nicole Mittenfelner Carl. This easily digestible text is chock-full of prac­tical information that is technically rigorous enough for school administrators who need sound evidence for their positions on assessment and evaluation. — School Administrator

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About the Authors

Sharon M. Ravitch is a professor of practice at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Ravitch engages in numerous applied research projects in India, serving as a visiting scholar at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai and working as a co-researcher and key resource expert in policy advocacy, professional development, and community-based participatory research related to corporate social responsibility through TISS’s Corporate Social Responsibility Hub. She is involved in the design and implementation of assessment and evaluation of statewide performance through mixed methods research in the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s major policy initiative, Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), a countrywide reform initiative aimed to resurrect India’s state public university system. Ravitch is also an expert adviser at the Center for Academic Leadership and Education Management at TISS. The center provides professional development and policy advocacy support to school education leaders across India. Ravitch works in the center’s capacity-building program to collaboratively develop case studies and technology-innovation frameworks for the higher education and K–12 sectors using a participatory approach. She received the prestigious GIAN Scholar Award from the government of India for 2016–2017 and the RUSA Scholar Award for 2017–2018. Ravitch also received a Fulbright Fellowship to engage in research and applied development work in India from 2017 to 2019.

Ravitch is also principal investigator of Semillas Digitales, a multiyear applied development research initiative in rural Nicaragua that is a partnership with the Seeds for Progress Foundation. Ravitch’s research integrates across the fields of qualitative research, education, applied development, cultural anthropology, and human development and has four main strands: (1) practitioner research for sustainable, stakeholder-driven professional and institutional development and innovation; (2) international applied development research that works from participatory and action research approaches (projects currently in India and Nicaragua); (3) ethnographic and participatory evaluation research; and (4) leader inquiry, education, and professional development.

Ravitch has published four books: Qualitative Research: Bridging the Conceptual, Theoretical, and Methodological (with Nicole Carl, 2016). Reason and Rigor: How Conceptual Frameworks Guide Research (with Matthew Riggan, 2016); School Counseling Principles: Diversity and Multiculturalism (2006); and Matters of Interpretation: Reciprocal Transformation in Therapeutic and Developmental Relationships with Youth (with Michael Nakkula, 1998). Ravitch earned two master’s degrees from Harvard University, one in risk and prevention and another in human development and psychology, and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in an interdisciplinary program that combined education, anthropology, and sociology.

Nicole Mittenfelner Carl is a postdoctoral fellow in the Teaching, Learning, and Leadership division at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She received her doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017. Carl teaches courses related to qualitative research methods, practitioner research for educational leaders, and mentoring strategies for veteran teachers coaching first-year teachers.

Carl’s research has three primary foci: (1) professional development and coaching for teachers and leaders, (2) how practitioners and students can conduct research to improve their schools, and (3) the social and cultural contexts of schooling and its implications on students, teachers, parents, and school leaders.

Carl has been conducting qualitative research for more than a decade, beginning in 2005, when she was awarded a Mellon Fellowship. Since then, she has led and participated in numerous qualitative and mixed-methods research projects and written a seminal text with Sharon Ravitch about qualitative research methods: Qualitative Research: Bridging the Conceptual, Theoretical, and Methodological (2016). She has also published several articles on students’ experiences with schooling, the impacts of educational policies on teachers and leaders, and applied research in peer-reviewed journals. Carl has worked with school leaders, teachers, and students in various settings (public and independent) to consider ways to use research to drive school improvement. She has also led a multiyear, multisite evaluation of the impact of these projects on the schools and the individuals involved. She continues to research ways that practitioners can conduct and use research in their schools, and she supports schools in the implementation of these projects.

Drawn from her experiences as a teacher, a teacher leader, and a teacher coach, Carl’s current research, a multiyear ethnographic study of a K–8 school in a low-income neighborhood in a large urban city, describes the ways that hidden agendas of social class immobility and inequity shape schooling experiences. The research examines socialization structures in schools, the role of cultural and social capital, the importance of qualitative research, ways to incorporate student voice, and how policy is experienced by students and teachers.

Table of Contents


Blog Post: "Using Applied Research to Understand Organizational Culture"

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