Stepping out of the classroom: Involving teachers in the evaluation of national special education policy

Roseanna Bourke, Alison Kearney, Jill Bevan-Brown

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Since Richard Rose relaunched BJSE’s Research Section as a forum for the discussion of practitioner research, BJSE has published a series of very successful accounts of individual teacher enquiry and action research. In this article from New Zealand, Roseanna Bourke, now working at the Ministry of Education in Wellington, and her two colleagues, Alison Kearney and Jill Bevan-Brown, both from the Department of Learning and Teaching at Massey University, present an alternative view of the involvement of teachers in research. In 1999, the Ministry of Education asked a team of researchers from Massey University to evaluate the introduction of New Zealand’s first national policy for special education, known as Special Education 2000. The 16-member research team was contracted to provide a three-year, multi-method, longitudinal evaluation incorporating both quantitative and qualitative approaches. This article looks specifically at one aspect of the approach used in the evaluation – the use of teachers as fieldworkers. Teachers across the country were trained as fieldworkers to assist in the collection of data in schools and early childhood centres. Training was given to all teachers on the research aims, methods, ethics, including cultural sensitivity, and rationale for the evaluation. By participating in large-scale research and acting as ‘fieldworkers’, 68 teachers had the opportunity to develop their skills as researchers, while learning about other schools’ perceptions and experiences of the special education policy. The experience provided a means for teachers to become apprenticed into a research culture, and to talk with principals and other teachers about common areas of interest. It also ensured that the research had knowledgeable and credible fieldworkers to collect data in schools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-156
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Special Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004


  • Evaluation research
  • Policy
  • Special educational needs
  • Teacher researchers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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