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Professional Life and Work

The Life of a School

Studying the Life of a School

The choice of a single event also provides focus for your research task. By choosing a particular time, place, and cast of characters, you limit the range of documents and other sources you have to survey to understand the issues at hand. Lengthy research processes, such as selecting informants or searching newspaper articles, could be shortened. At the same time, you can proceed much more deeply into the relevant sources. You can hunt down and unearth details that would be easily skipped in a broader approach to school history. You could easily find yourself with knowledge from all sides of an issue.

The most obvious drawback in this approach is the question of whether you have developed a meaningful story line and viable contextual location. If you only examine one event, how do you know how important it stands in relation to other events which occurred in the history of a given school? Beyond that, the setting of a specific, single context may limit the importance of your argument. It is crucial to include an examination of context in your description, but it is difficult in a single event study to determine the degree to which events are contingent upon that context.

A study of short-term events is open to the criticism that it misses the long view. Readers may rightly question whether the fact that, for instance, a particular principal sponsored a particular curriculum initiative has substantial meaning in the overall history of that school. Historians who study broad economic and social structures often feel events are of minor importance, representing the acting out of preexisting imperatives.

As a final warning, if you do choose to focus all your energy on a single event, missing sources can present huge or insurmountable problems. If one actor remains an enigma (because she left no diary and no one else understood her), if the minutes of a controversial meeting are lost, or if a proposed curriculum scheme was tossed out once it was turned down, the basis of your whole interpretation may be jeopardised.

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The Life of a School
  • Date of publication: 01/05/2011
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 154
  • Publisher: Peter Lang
  • Co-author: NAN
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
  • Available in:
    English
  • Appears in:
    The Life of a School
  • Number of editions: 1
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £19.10
  • ISBN: 978-94-6091-538-3
  • Purchase this book:
    Peter Lang
  • Buy used and new from: Amazon UK