Making sense of place in school-based intervention research

20 Mar 2015

The commentary made here by this intervention researcher arises from a ‘place’ in which school-based interventions are used to build knowledge, and thereby to bring relief to a young democracy – at once highly diverse and in transition – with aspirations for eradicating inequality. I use the concept of place as a theoretical lens to argue that intervention researchers, whose task it is to consider the meaning of intervention findings in different contexts, require a cognisance of pluriversality and geopolitical variance as a result of unequal development. In this study, I deliberately and reflexively integrate familiar education- place descriptions in my commentary. By means of this representation, I substantiate the argument that intentional reporting of place (rather than assumptions of school-places as normative) informs quality when adapting interventions. I frame my commentary around activism and engagement, ideology and politics, identity culture, and connectedness, which all influence sense of place in school-based intervention. I first show that using activism and engagement to make sense of place may denote emancipatory research in the case of one place, and theory-derived, hypothesis testing in another. I then explain how ideology and politics mean that marginalisation is embodied in high risk schools. Within high risk school settings, randomised control trials become unlikely, and interventions require both fluidity to adapt to crises, and extended time for implementation. I explain that identity culture requires interventions that promote effective literacy instruction in multilingual spaces, and that compel multiple implementation languages. Lastly, I discuss the benefits of partnerships that connect researchers and teachers to an intervention. I conclude that besides the evidence that shows that place variability requires consideration for quality intervention, commonalities also exist across intervention research, irrespective of place. Sharing descriptions of strategies to overcome common challenges in school-based inquiry can be used to plan and implement interventions with a high level of integrity.