Furman, Cara E. & Traugh, Cecelia E. Descriptive Inquiry in Teacher Practice: Cultivating Practice Wisdom to Create Democratic Schools. New York: Teachers College Press, 2021.
This book is must reading for teachers and school administrators. It describes a process for supporting student learning, teacher development, and school improvement. Unlike so many others who draw from the fields of medicine and organizational development for strategies to “fix” education, Furman and Traugh advocate a process embedded in foundational principles of education itself. Also refreshing is the way school administrators participate in the process of descriptive inquiry, rather than using manipulative “leadership” strategies to force compliance with top down policies. The authors are not naive about the pressures exerted by externally imposed mandates, but they illustrate how they have worked to adapt mandates to their school’s vision and values. Through careful attention and deep reflection, teachers and administrators work together to create meaningful collaborative cultures within classrooms and schools. In contrast to the “quick fixes” offered by prepackaged materials, the process of descriptive inquiry draws upon the talents of those within a school. Throughout, the emphasis is on capabilities, not deficits, of both students and teachers. The work of descriptive inquiry is not necessarily easy, but examples throughout the book illustrate the important results that can be achieved.