Shared Power, Risk-taking, and Innovation: Participatory Action Research in Jewish Education


Source: Journal of Jewish Education, 85:2, 187-208


In this article, the authors describe and discuss applications of the Group-Level Assessment/Understanding (GLA/GLU) process, an innovative participatory action research methodology. The authors first describe the GLA/GLU application in the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI) and the creation of an MTEI interpretive community to deeply analyze the collected data. The authors then describe adaptations of the process in their home communities to address community-identified dilemmas, tensions, and problems. The article concludes with reflections on common themes that emerged in the GLA/GLU applications–shared power, risk-taking, and methodological innovation.


We began this article by asking how the GLU/GLA participatory action research model could inform our work in MTEI. We asked ourselves: How might facilitating participatory action research in a day school or congregational school be a useful practice for leaders to initiate and enact positive change? In walking through the steps of the process in the cohort as a whole, as well as with our inquiry community, we gained important insights into the needs of our cohort. In addition, we saw that the GLU/GLA offered a powerful tool to educational leaders to bring their stakeholders into shared inquiry to improve the quality of the education in their schools. The five educational leaders who shared their experiences in these pages offered us a glimpse into what it takes to learn a new practice, to experiment with educational innovation, and to assume a participatory stance. In addition, they illustrated the ways in which this form of collective inquiry created opportunities for important learning for themselves as well as those with whom they worked.

We have learned a great deal from these inquiries, and they point to new possibilities for further research. Over the past four years, many MTEI participants and graduates have shared anecdotal data/reports of using the GLA/GLU processes in their schools, communities, and consultancies. We are curious to learn more about the purposes that led them to choose this methodology and the outcomes/actions that resulted from their collective work.

The examples in this article of educational leaders and practitioners using the GLU/GLA participatory research method for a variety of purposes have demonstrated both its suitability and its adaptability for these and possibly other contexts. Even more than a research method, GLU/GLA shows promise in education settings for magnifying diverse stakeholder voices, sharing power in planning, assessment, and meaning-making tasks, and facilitating innovative–albeit sometimes risky–ways to move groups toward better understanding and meeting their shared goals.

Updated: Jul. 07, 2019