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Katherine Tibbetts and Wendy Kekahio on Collaborative Inquiry

Hello, we are Katherine Tibbetts and Wendy Kekahio, and both program evaluators doing work within the field of education in Hawai`i. Our work involves using indigenous ways of teaching and learning to inform culturally relevant and responsive ways of conducting research and evaluation studies.  One of our recent projects involved working with Hawaiian-focused charter schools to assess the impact of participation in professional development programs.

The Collaborative Inquiry (CI) project was designed to be culturally relevant and responsive–representing the values of relevance, rigor, respectful relationships, and reciprocity (for more information see, among others, Tibbetts, Faircloth, Villegas and Wheeler (2008)), The CI project extended the conventional purposes of evaluation to prove or improve, by employing a meta-action-research strategy to support the transfer of knowledge and skills learned at the training and assess their impact on teaching and learning. To do this, all participating teachers were required to conduct collaborative inquiry projects. They were encouraged to do their projects in small groups. The charter school teachers’ projects were supported by faculty contracted from a local college of education and culminated in a Ho`ike (demonstration of knowledge or skills).

Hot Tip: Supporting the Inquiry Projects. If you are interested in replicating this approach, it is important to provide ongoing support and scaffolding for the inquiry projects. The simplified action research curriculum and tools provided by the college of education faculty brought what were previously largely abstract concepts to life for the charter school teachers. Multiple “touch points” throughout school year, including visits to the charter schools enabled the college of education faculty to provide advice on the feasibility of project plans to identify potential sources of data that were tailored to each action research project, and helped sustain the momentum of the projects

Hot Tip: Assessing the Impact. As evaluators, our primary challenge was to synthesize information across a wide variety of projects. In the first year, there were 8 projects conducted in 3 different schools with topics spanning nutrition education, behavior management, mathematics, and writing. We approached the analysis as a multiple case study (based loosely on Stake, 2008) and ultimately created a rubric based on the CI project objectives and standards of inquiry. This allowed us to assess and summarize the quality of the inquiry projects.

Rad Resources:

Deloria Jr., V., & Wildcat, D.R. (2001). Power and place: Indian education in America. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Resources.

Hood, S., Hopson, R. K., & Frierson, H. T. (2005). The role of culture and cultural context: a mandate for inclusion, the discovery of truth and understanding in evaluative theory and practice. Greenwich, CT: IAP

Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: research and indigenous peoples. London: Zed Books.

Stake, R.E. (2006). Multiple case study analysis. New York: Guilford Press.

Thompson-Robinson, M., Hopson, R., & SenGupta, S. (Eds.). (2004). In Search of Cultural Competence in Evaluation (Vol. 102). Fairhaven, MA: Wiley Periodicals.

Tibbetts, K. A., Faircloth, S., Villegas, M., & Wheeler, L. (2008). Section III: Indigenizing accountability and assessment. In M. K. P. A. Benham (Ed.), Indigenous Educational Models for Contemporary Practice:  In Our Mothers Voice II. New York: Routledge.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to

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1 comment

  • Joan LaFrance · September 1, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I appreciated this description of your evaluation. We are looking at a similar issue in Montana, and you have provided me with some useful information and ideas for adapting your approach to our situation.


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