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Cynthia A. Tananis
TITLE: Assistant Professor

AFFILIATION: University of Pittsburgh, School of Education, School Leadership Development program in the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies

DISSERTATION TITLE: Tananis, C. (2000). Discursive evaluation: The journey of an 'epistemorph' toward an interpretive practice and inquiry. UMI ProQuest Digital Dissertations #AAT 9974482.


I currently serve as a Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh in the School of Education. In addition to teaching and advising in the doctoral program in Educational Leadership, I capitalize on a 24 year expertise in educational evaluation in the capacity of an evaluator consultant for the Math and Science Collaborative of Southwest Pennsylvania, a consortia of schools and organizations interested in quality math and science education. This initiative engage public, parochial, and private K-12 schools throughout the 11-county southwestern Pennsylvania region, including over 1/5 of Pennsylvania's schools. The evaluation project seeks to provide appropriate documentation of the initiative's programs and processes and develop indicators of regional progress which can be tracked longitudinally. I serve as an evaluation consultant to the Superintendent's Forum of Western Pennsylvania, and as the Evaluation Coordinator for the University-sponsored Pennsylvania Governor's School for International Studies and work with a variety of schools across the region to consider the management and use of varied forms of data to inform thinking and decision-making. I also teach the beginning year core courses for all departmental doctoral students and teach a project-based information technology course for educational practitioners and policy analysts.

My research interests focus on how research can best inform educational praxis and in a similar and valued way, educational practice can influence research. At the core of this heuristic are issues of personal/professional persona as we enact praxis and how we (as both a consequence and precursor to further relationship) frame both our sense of "self" and "other" within educational contexts. This research interest has brought me, first in my dissertation work, and in a continuing way in my current writing and teaching, to a more interpretivist framing of my work and self. I claim myself an "epistemorph" rather than an ontological/epistemological purist. My dissertation more fully describes and explores that concept.

Coming from a solid post-positivist perspective, I have previously served as Research Specialist for the Chief of Cerebrovascular Surgery, and Professor, University of Pittsburgh with major responsibilities that included research and database design, instrumentation, protocol development and supervision of all research-related activities. I also served the Pittsburgh Public Schools as Project Director for Collaborative Programs for the Pittsburgh Science Institute, a multifaceted curriculum development and support vehicle for improving science education in the Pittsburgh Public School system. I was responsible for developing and managing all collaborative efforts between external agencies, including foundations, corporations, colleges and universities, professional associations and societies, and government agencies, to support and augment school district initiatives. Additionally, I continued to serve as a part-time consulting Research Assistant (a position which I held full-time for 7 years) which included responsibilities for all aspects of program and curriculum evaluation including needs assessment, program documentation and dissemination, formative and summative evaluation, and impact studies. In prior years, I had served as Research and Evaluation Coordinator of a $2 million educational retraining program for displaced workers at the Community College of Allegheny County, with responsibility for program planning and design, outcome evaluation, curriculum analysis and development of a variety of reporting mechanisms.

Dissertation Abstract:


This qualitative, grounded theory study traces my journey as an "epistemorph" as I grapple with the underlying issues of what I believe to be true (epistemology), real (ontology) and valuable (axiology) within my practice as an educational evaluator. The narrative portrays my journey as I "morph" in epistemology from a post-positivist to a more interpretivist perspective and uses the literature from the field of educational evaluation to highlight these different perspectives. The core concept of "epistemorph" is portrayed through the use of my evolving persona as an evaluator and how these persona situate my practice and inquiry in four thematic areas: connections between practice and inquiry, how one constructs "other" and self, the nature of the relationship with "other," and how one constructs knowledge. I use the narrative portrayal of my journey in practice and inquiry as a way to explicate the concepts of the theory. The grounded theory portrays the post-positivist evaluator persona as an "insulated expert" who relies on observation, measurement and prediction of an external reality from an objective, "insulated" stance to construct and communicate knowledge to others. The more interpretive "discursive deliberator" persona co-constructs wisdom with others within a sustainable, intimate relationship where "other" and self are revealed and re-created in collaborative dialogue. The narrative offers three more detailed personas within each perspective to reveal the more subtle nuances as I challenge my assumptions related to practice and inquiry. This study represents a qualitative, more interpretive study using grounded theory procedures to build a substantive theory from the emerging "text" of the inquiry. Using original textual data (email correspondence, fugitive documents, professional and research journals, etc.), initial coding provided general themes from which I could generate narrative vignettes from practice and inquiry. These vignettes offered an interpretation for deliberation with colleagues. The concepts of the theory emerged from the interpretive interplay of the original data, the vignettes and the deliberation that together created the "text" of the inquiry. A critique of the dissertation explores the limits of the document as an interpretive representation and discusses areas of concern for the interpretive researcher.


Tananis, C.A., Chrostowski, S.J., Bunt, N.R., Seeley, M.M. and Tamler, L. (2002) Southwest Pennsylvania Regional Benchmarking Report TIMSS 1999 Eighth Grade Mathematics and Science: Achievement for a Workforce Region in a National and International Context. Boston: Boston College, International Study Center. [available online: ]

Piantanida, M., Tananis, C.A., & Grubs, R.E. (in press). Generating Grounded Theory of/for Educational Practice: The Journey of Three Epistemorphs. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.

Tananis, C. (2002) What are we learning?: Summary report of data from the 2000-01 Profile of District Math and Science Indicators. The Journal Vol. 8, 2001-2002. Math and Science Collaborative, Pittsburgh, PA. [available online: ]

Tananis, C. (2002) What are we doing?: TIMSS 1999 southwest Pennsylvania regional benchmarking report: Executive summary. The Journal Vol. 8, 2001-2002. Math and Science Collaborative, Pittsburgh, PA. [available online: ]

Tananis, C. (2001) TIMSS 1999: Using our regional results to impact practice and influence policy. The Journal Vol. 7, 2000-2001. Math and Science Collaborative, Pittsburgh, PA. [available online: ]

Tananis, C. (2001) Southwestern Pennsylvania: Summary report of data from the 1999-2000 District Profile of Math and Science Indicators. The Journal Vol. 7, 2001-2002. Math and Science Collaborative, Pittsburgh, PA. [available online: ]


As an active member of both the American Association of Educational Research (AERA) and the American Evaluation Association (AEA), I have presented numerous papers, roundtables and posters at both organization's annual meetings. Additionally, I have presented summaries of my work at local, regional and national meetings related to math and science education reform and evaluation planning and practice.


An educational global positioning system: Bringing TIMSS international benchmarking home to local schools (a refined AERA presentation, 2003)

The authority to imagine and claim the "dark wood." (a book chapter exploring the ontological underpinning of my dissertation work and evaluation practice)

Copyright 2003,