Sharon F. Rallis
Dwight W. Allen Distinguished Professor in Education Policy and Reform
Professional Interests: 
Education policy and reform; Educational leadership; Qualitative research methods and evaluation


B.A., Wellesley, 1968
Ed.M., Harvard, 1977
Ed.D., 1982


Dr. Rallis is the Dwight W. Allen Distinguished Professor of Educational Policy and Reform in the Department of Education Policy, Research and Administration where she teaches courses in inquiry, program evaluation, qualitative methodology, and organizational theory. She serves as director of the Center for Education Policy and is associated with the Center for International Education. Over her more than 40 years working in education, Sharon has taught and counseled in U.S. K-12 public schools, been a school principal, served on a local school board, directed a U.S. federal school reform initiative, and held faculty positions at Vanderbilt University, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the University of Connecticut.


With an aim to inform and contribute to program improvement, she is interested in applied research; as an evaluator, she connects theory, research, and practice through conducting evaluation. Sharon’s expertise lies in methodology (qualitative research and program evaluation), and organizational theory and change. The 2005 president of the American Evaluation Association, she has conducted research and evaluations of educational, medical, and social organizations, agencies, and programs. She has worked with governmental agencies, foundations, service organizations and other non-profits, and school districts. Her work in evaluation is internationally known due to invited work and publications in China, Canada, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Japan.


Because I see writing as a dialogic learning experience, I prefer to write with others, so my publications include several books co-authored with colleagues and former students. With Gretchen Rossman, I’ve written:  Learning in the Field: An Introduction to Qualitative Research (Sage Publications), a widely used methodology text in its 2nd edition; Dynamic Teachers (which has been translated into Chinese); Leading Dynamic Schools: How to Create and Implement Ethical Policies (also co-authored with a former student); as well as numerous chapters and articles. Recently, we’ve published several journal articles and book chapters discussing ethical practice in qualitative research and currently are writing a book based on our course, Introduction to Inquiry. I have also co-authored several publications with a former UMass professor Matt Militello that drew on our experiences as both as principals and as researchers studying the role of leadership in school reform.


Given my abiding interest in connecting theory and practice, I consider both my research and my teaching critical to my epistemology: the way I know something is often through linking my doing research with my teaching. I find myself out learning in the field, analyzing the experience through a relevant lens, and then using that learning as basis for my teaching. In my classes I try to implement the philosophy of John Dewey, who argues that a teacher’s responsibility is to create challenging and safe environments for active engagement in learning. I hope to be what Donald Schon (1983) calls a professional who reflects in (as much as on) action. My teaching, therefore, is tightly interwoven with my students’ learning, and I ask students to be agents of their own learning, reflecting in and on their actions. To me, learning is interactive and dialogic, that is, each of us brings ideas and skills to the discourse; the ideas build upon each other; new ideas emerge. Together we produce knowledge, and learning occurs – both for my students and myself.