Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2020 Issue »


    Portraiture as a Method of Inquiry in Educational Research

    Sarah Bruhn and Raquel L. Jimenez
    Editors’ Introduction

    With its publication in 1983, A Nation at Risk condemned American schools and decried the future of education and democracy at large. The report offered a sensationalized portrayal of schools in decline and provoked a national conversation about the crisis of American education. That same year, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (1983), a sociologist of education, published The Good High School as an intentional response to the focus on school deficiencies that was, and remains, common in social science research. To document the full range of complexity, vulnerability, and goodness that she saw in high schools across the country, Lawrence-Lightfoot developed the tools for a new mode of qualitative inquiry, which she termed portraiture. In portraiture, rigorous scientific empiricism is complemented by careful attention to the aesthetics of communication for the purposes of deepening perception and expanding common frames of reference, goals that often push audiences to see and think about the world in new ways (Dixson, Chapman, & Hill, 2005; Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997). Together, A Nation at Risk and The Good High School presented two contrasting narratives: one recorded the dismal failures of American schools, and the other illuminated the hopeful, if imperfect, work of teachers and principals.

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    Spring 2020 Issue


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    Book Notes

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    Absent from School
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    Where Teachers Thrive
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    Redefining Success in America
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