Background: This paper considers the role of collaborative enquiry
as a means of developing equity in education. The context was a
collaborative project in which a university was supporting local
schools in carrying out enquiry into their practice, with the purpose
of moving the practice towards greater equity.
Purpose: The research question addressed is as follows: What
characterises and explains teachers’ different and changing perspectives
in a process of enquiry directed towards more equitable schooling?
Sample: Participants were teachers involved in a systematic process
of collaborative action research in the north-west of England.
Design and methods: During an 11-month period, spanning a
school year, the authors engaged with teachers, supporting enquiry
processes. Teachers’ perspectives were explored as they participated
in this enquiry network. The study design was ethnographic, with
tools introduced to generate systematic data within the process. In
particular, five months into the process, 16 of the teachers were invited
to participate in an activity based on Q-sort methodology. They were
asked to rank, and comment on, statements which described how
they might be thinking about, and responding to, the enquiry process.
Results: Analysis of the ways that teachers sorted the cards led to
identification of four groups of participants: (1) those focused on
practice, (2) research, (3) collaboration and (4) those feeling themselves
to be outsiders to the process. As the two dominant perspectives were
‘practice’ and ‘research’ (groups 1 and 2), two contrasting case studies
were then developed in order to explore the perspectives in more
detail. While the initial questions generated by the participants arose
out of their existing development plans, and both aimed to contribute
to equity in the school, analysis showed that the processes in the two
schools differed and suggested that teachers’ experience of enquiry
in the two case studies was also different, both in terms of the ways
they were empowered to consider their own work critically, and the
contexts in which they worked.
Conclusions: Enquiry can work as a tool, offering teachers a way of
tackling a problem. But, in addition, enquiry can change the way
teachers see themselves, overall leading to a deepening of teacher