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Tom Wilson

All About Practice-Based Inquiry® 

Procedures to Insure Legitimacy component of Practice-Based Inquiry®

For the visit to meet its potential as a tool of accountability and support, it must be a rigorous, inquiry-based undertaking that produces legitimate results. It is not hard to design and conduct a visit that has no special claim to rigor. Practice-Based Inquiryis a different methodology with an inherent rigor that produces legitimate inquiry findings, i.e., a team's findings about what is present in an institution accurately represents what, in fact, is happening in the school or organization.

Legitimacy is a measure of the team's actual and perceived rigor.

The questions about legitimacy are:

"How do you know you are sure about that?"
"Why should I accept what you say as the truth?"

Legitimacy is about the results of a methodology—its findings or conclusions. The best response that a team can make to questions about the legitimacy of its findings is usually, "This is how and why we came to that conclusion."

The Practice-Based Inquiryvisit methodology provides a solid framework for the conduct of the visit so that it is possible to answer that question in a persuasive manner. The questions then become, "Was the protocol squarely based on Practice-Based Inquiry principles?" and "Did that particular team and school follow the protocol closely enough?"

The level of legitimacy that is required in a particular visit protocol is a design issue. For a protocol to be accredited as a Practice-Based Inquiryprotocol it must meet a set of minimum standards. Thus, the protocol is explicit about the procedures that will ensure legitimacy to the design, the conduct of the visit and the findings.

In addition, some protocols require a higher level of legitimacy than others. The more political the context, the more public the report, and the higher the stakes for the school or the agency sponsoring the visit, the higher the level of legitimacy that protocol requires. It is possible to extend most of these procedures in order to increase actual and perceived legitimacy. Most of these extensions will increase the cost of each visit. The question about design becomes a cost/benefit decision that depends in large part on the purpose of the protocol.

The Procedures to Insure Legitimacy are:

  • Prepare an Accredited Protocol.
  • Use a Certified Chair.
  • Train the Team.
  • Certify that the Actual Membership of the Team Meets Team Composition Guidelines.
  • Monitor the Conduct of the Actual Visit.
  • Endorse Visit Reports.
  • Require Team Members to Sign a Code of Conduct.
  • Clarify the Editing, Distribution and Ownership of Report.
  • Provide Host Institutions with a Procedure to Challenge the Report.

Catalpa Ltd. provides ongoing services to implement these procedures as well as consultation for how a PBI accredited agency can be licensed to provide them for its visits. See Services.

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