Gretchen B. Rossman
Professor Emerita
Professional Interests: 
Research Design and Methods, Qualitative Inquiry

B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1966
M.S. in Ed., 1968
Ph.D., 1983



Dr. Rossman is Professor Emerita of Education and is associated with the Center for International Education. She retired from the University in May, 2017, and continued to teach for three years on a post-retirement agreement. She served as Visiting Professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and as Visiting Scholar at the University of Hong Kong. Her US domestic research interests have focused on the close examination of the school- and district-level initiatives necessary to create collaborative, responsive learning settings. She has conducted multisite studies of systemic change in schools; of inclusion initiatives for students with disabilities in rural, suburban, and urban districts; and of teachers' roles in systemic reform. 


In her international work, she has recently served as Principal Investigator on a sub-contract with AMIDEAST for the Leadership and Teacher Development in Palestine.  Other recent work includes serving as Principal Investigator on an evaluation contract for Twaweza, a Tanzania-based organization; as Co-Principal Investigator on the LIRE project (a multi-grade initiative in Senegal and The Gambia) and on the University Partners for Institutional Capacity project in Malawi, as examples.  She also served as International Education’s liaison with agencies who sponsor students from developing countries.  In this capacity, she traveled to the Republics of Georgia and Kyrgyzstan to interview highly-qualified doctoral applicants.


Gretchen has strong interests in qualitative research design and methods and has published extensively on qualitative methods, research design, and ethics in inquiry.  Her books include The Research Journey: An Introduction to Inquiry (with Sharon Rallis, Guilford Press); Designing Qualitative Research (with Catherine Marshall and Gerardo Blanco, Sage, 7th ed.); and Learning in the Field (with Sharon Rallis, Sage, 4th ed.). 


Given these interests, Gretchen taught courses in introduction to inquiry, qualitative research methods, qualitative research design, and participatory action research methods. In her retirement, Gretchen continues to work closely with doctoral and master’s students.  In terms of teaching and advising, Gretchen comments:


I delight in seeing students grow in confidence and competence. In my courses on research methodology, I tried to create learning environments that fostered complex reasoning skills and thoughtful decision-making, and encouraged the development of the knowledge and skills that enable students to conduct research competently and ethically. I have been intrigued with the growth of students as they inquire about topics or phenomena of interest to them. I hope that they become persistent inquirers into their own lives and those of others - the ultimate goals of social science - and become committed to more socially just organizations and societies. To encourage this learning, I structured my classes to foster the engagement of students with the materials, one another, and their own research interests. My goal has been to create learning experiences that are rigorous and involving. Within this structure, there is considerable choice - and with this choice, I have elicited students' personal or professional interests as catalysts for their learning. Drawing on personal interest and experience captures the passion that should be present in sustained, thoughtful inquiry into the social world.


Learning takes place in a number of venues; the classroom is just one. In working with advanced graduate students, I have followed the precepts outlined above. Focusing on their interests and commitments, I have created a structure for inquiry that is disciplined and rigorous. As we work within these parameters, I have had the privilege of seeing students grow in intellectual sophistication and subtle reasoning, as they deepen their understanding of the topics that capture their imaginations. To bear witness to this growth is a privilege, a responsibility, and a calling.


Recent Activities 

From September 2011 through February 2016, Gretchen served as Chair of the Department of Educational Policy, Research & Administration.  In that role, she was fortunate to have the discretionary funds to initiate doctoral student dissertation grants, student travel grants, and grants for pre-tenure faculty; to provide support for faculty as they requested; and to supplement travel funds for the two Distinguished Professors in the department, among other accomplishments.  She also worked with search committees that were successful in bringing three outstanding new faculty members to the department.

Recent Publications

The 7th edition of Designing Qualitative Research has been published by SAGE (2022).  To this new edition, UMass Amherst College of Education graduate, Gerardo Blanco, was invited to serve as a co-author. Gerry’s participation has brought substantial new perspectives to the book. This book on the design of various approaches to qualitative inquiry has been a best-seller since 1989 and has been translated into Mandarin and Vietnamese.


The 4th edition of An Introduction to Qualitative Research: Learning in the Field by Gretchen Rossman and Sharon Rallis was published by SAGE in 2017.  This introductory text takes the reader through key considerations in designing and implementing a small-scale qualitative inquiry project.  This 4th edition features a companion web-site with a variety of materials to supplement teaching and learning about qualitative inquiry.