April’s #BlogaMonth topic,”How do you internally measure success (beyond that of test scores)?” took me back to my days as an Ed.D. student working on my doctoral research. During those weeks, months (and years), my natural tendency toward qualitative rather than quantitative research heavily influenced the direction and nature of my research into adolescent spirituality.

I don’t want to get too granular here in terms of my research project, research orientation, and methodology. But from my current vantage point I continue to be glad for the fact that I approached my research through the lens of qualitative research.

My primary goal in pursuing an Ed.D. was to arrive at a place where I could authentically consider myself to be a “scholar-practitioner.” To me that means having the ability to view one’s career and community of practice not only as a dedicated professional, but also as an engaged and curious researcher. Within any school community there are a dizzying amount of potential areas for scholarly inquiry. Many teachers and administrators don’t have the time or the training to approach their work through the critical eye of a researcher. Those that do have a unique opportunity to advance their understanding of their school and ultimately to help the school better understand itself. While it’s possible to be a truly outstanding practitioner without any training in formal research, research background offers a really exciting and unique skill set to any practitioner that is open to seeking out these skills.

Within the research world there are roughly two camps– qualitative and quantitative. Each has their time and place, their strengths and weaknesses. Each has their built in tensions and biases and much depends on the researcher, the area of inquiry, and the scope of the research project. But while quantitative can certainly yield rich data, qualitative research, in my opinion, offers the scholar-practitioner the most interesting and nuanced pathway into a deeper appreciation of the human elements of their community of practice because it creates the most room for the human voice both in the formulation of the project and in the data collection and analysis.

In praise of the qualitative