Methods

The Match project was undertaken as a unique, collaborative effort among faculty members and graduate students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Mark Warren and Karen Mapp, the faculty members, provided overall leadership; however, sixteen graduate students participated in all phases of the project, from initial design to analysis and writing. Moreover, All decisions were made as a collective. In other words, we sought to imbue our research methods with some of the principles of community organizing.

Teams of two to three doctoral students formed case study research teams and they were empowered to enter the field and shape a research process authentic to each locality. They spent a year traveling to the research sites, interviewing participants, observing activities in schools and communities, and collecting relevant documents like organizational reports, newspaper articles and statistics on school performance. The teams analyzed their data and wrote up the case chapters in this book.

But teams did not operate on their own. We set up a dynamic process where case teams constantly reported back to the faculty leaders and the other case teams. Every step of the process occurred in dialogue with the entire research project. Findings and analysis were shared across the entire project in order to stimulate deeper analysis of each case and of the project as a whole.

We believe our collaborative approach created a rich and rigorous research process. This approach was particularly relevant to our goals. By empowering each case team to respond authentically to local context, we were able to develop richly detailed and contextually grounded case studies of each organizing group. By pursuing a common research design across the cases and by working together on the overall analysis, we were able to identify the similarities and differences in the way groups organize for education reform.