James M. FRABUTT, Anthony C. HOLTER, and Ronald J .NUZZI, Research, Action, and Change: Leaders Reshaping Catholic Schools. Notre Dame, IN: Alliance for Catholic Education Press, 2008. pp. 291. ISBN 978-0-9788793-6-5.
Reviewed by Mary L. GAUTIER, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20007

According to members of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame, the concept of action research has tremendous potential benefits for positively reshaping the future of Catholic elementary and secondary education. Research, Action, and Change offers an introduction to action research in Catholic schools through the specific lens of community and spirituality and provides eight original action research studies conducted by leaders in Catholic schools. Studies include action research on literacy practices of high school students, differentiated instruction and the introduction of an ELL program in elementary schools, the introduction of an advisory program for at-risk high schools students, accessing federal IDEA funds, and more.

Fr. Ronald Nuzzi, director of ACE’s Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, and program faculty members Dr. James Frabutt and Dr. Anthony Holter, describe action research as applicable in a wide variety of contexts but particularly well-suited to closing the gap between educational research and practice. They acknowledge that research is traditionally left to academia, not to classroom or administrative practitioners engaged in the day-to-day work of schools. The latter have typically been passive recipients or users of findings from research done by education scholars. However, because action researchers systematically explore challenges in their school, they bridge the traditional gap between researcher and practitioner and are empowered to make data driven decisions for the sake of educational improvement.

The authors make a compelling case of the particular application of action research in Catholic schools, noting “just how closely action research is with Catholic belief, practice, and tradition, which they explain in separate chapters on “Action Research and Spirituality” and “Action Research and Community.” The heart of the book – more than 200 of its 291 pages – is comprised of eight research papers prepared as the capstone project for the Master of Arts in Education Administration awarded through the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program.

In conclusion, the authors observe that “While there is no panacea here, developing a regularized approach to decision making that is mission-driven, data-informed, collegial, participatory, and scientific can bless Catholic educational practice in both the short and the long term. Our faith requires no less.”


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