Date of Award

Fall 2003

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Ann Diller


This two-year study describes the work of approximately thirty educators, kindergarten/post-secondary, who attend the Summer Institute on Descriptive Inquiry and November Conference under the auspices of The Prospect Archive and Center for Education and Research in North Bennington, Vermont. The purpose of this study is to portray the experience of collaborative inquiry using Prospect Center's descriptive processes.

Teacher network groups generally center around specific content areas such as language arts or science. In contrast, Prospect Center is an independent national network of educators committed to guided observation and disciplined description as a grounding for teaching practice and inquiry. Generated by participants, on-going content for the Summer Institute includes descriptions of children and their works, readings in literature and philosophy, and sessions devoted to issues of practice.

An account of the Institute is developed through narrative description of formal descriptive review sessions and daily interactions of participants. Ethnographic group and individual interviews reveal how the ideas and relationships formed during the Institute continue to influence the personal and professional lives of participants. Verbatim data, such as transcriptions of conversations and sessions convey the nature of the Institute. Participants' published works, unpublished papers, journal entries, letters and e-mails provided another source of data for this study. As a participant in Summer Institutes for over twenty years, I draw own my own knowledge and experience as well.

Conclusion. The collaborative processes developed by Prospect Center support a variety of perspectives and a respect for differences, which, along with a descriptive and inquiring stance, help teachers deepen their understanding of what it means to educate, enabling them to better advocate for their students. This descriptive account of collaborative inquiry in an independent network contributes an alternative perspective to teacher development for experienced as well as novice teachers.