Embeddedness: Implications for Leaders & Researchers


Post a paragraph or two addressing embeddedness in your settings. Specifically, how, where, and to what extent are leaders embedded throughout your school/organizational community? Are there certain areas where embedded insights are needed, but missing?  What are the regular routines and practices that operationalize/sustain this embeddedness?

Second, please project how you’ll embed yourself within your school community when you are a leader? Where will you spend time? What types of routines will you utilize to ensure that you are sufficiently “close” to all stakeholders? 

Ignatius, David. (2010). The Dangers of Embedded Journalism, in War and Politics. The Washington Post. May 2, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/30/AR2010043001100.html

Act 1: Weeds of Discontent, from The View From In Here. This American Life. July 26, 2013. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/501/the-view-from-in-here

I could speak to embeddedness in the school that I previously taught at, but I think I’ll attempt this from the standpoint of being a researcher. The arguments about embedded journalists and the price of intimately knowing one side but not the other, reminded me of the questions about rigor in qualitative work. Qualitative reports can become so contextualized that you miss the perspectives of other stakeholders, such as students, parents, community, boards, etc. You have to limit the scope of a case study somehow, but you should identify the ecology of the system and make conscious decisions about how it is limited.

For most of the research that I’ve read this fall, very little student voice is present, perhaps ironically given that their performance is usually the outcome being measured. The This American Life interview that gives the perspective of the inmate reminded me how little we asked students their side. Interventions are done to them and their outcomes are measured, without the consideration that they are an independent actor. Some of the most powerful pieces I can remember reading (School Girls, by Peggy Orenstein; Doing School, by Denise Pope Clark; and more recently the veteran teacher turned learning coach who blogged about shadowing students, posted on Grant Wiggins’ blog) were researchers who embedded with students, understanding their perspective in a way that would not have been clear through interviews or surveys.

Here are three thoughts on the challenges of embeddedness in research and school leadership: First, it can be challenging for one person to have strong relationships with all stakeholders. Some people are naturally more comfortable interacting with students or parents or teachers or board members. Thus a research team and advisor can help identify scope and perspective. Second, both researchers and school leaders could routinize being closer to all stakeholders by establishing (and keeping) a regular time to meet or be in the same space or the other’s space. We often think we understand someone’s perspective by their reports, but physically being there is important and draws out observations and questions that wouldn’t have come through otherwise. Finally, I do not think researchers or school leaders should be non-ideological reporters. While they need to maintain an openness and respect for differences of opinion, I think a leader needs to ideological stand (such as the importance of technology integration or cross-curricular coordination) on issues in order to lead towards an organizational vision.

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