Current research projects

Vignette Research

Vignette research is a phenomenologically oriented research methodology, which was developed at the Department of Teacher Education and School Research at the University of Innsbruck. A vignette is a form of literary non-fiction that captures a poignant moment experienced by the researcher in the midst of a classroom. This research approach is grounded in phenomenology, the philosophy of experience, because the inquiry goals were focused on the experience of learners.


By co-experiencing teaching and learning situations in and out of classrooms, researchers try to capture learning experiences as authentically as possible, that is in statu nascendi. Each event in a classroom is very much personal, each person is very much caught in the flow of their own experience. When crafting vignettes, researchers strive to recreate rather than reconstruct the lived (school) experience of students using language as the medium of disclosure. The multitude of experiences captured in such a vignette is the everyday reality of teachers and students, who are confronted by the unique and non-recurring nature of situations in general and school lessons in particular. Because writing is an individual process, the writing process for vignettes cannot be standardised. Yet, vignettes are carefully crafted as phenomenological evidence. Once vignettes have been crafted, they become the focus of phenomenologically oriented explication, a process which is referred to as “vignette reading”. Vignettes can be used to support the development of a new awareness of individual experiences occurring in the classroom and offer a resource in teacher education and professional development programs. They sensitize practitioners to the manifold experiences that occur in their own classrooms lesson for lesson.


A collection of over 70 vignettes from a grant-funded project has been published in German under the title Lernen als bildende Erfahrung: Vignetten in der Praxisforschung (Schratz, Schwarz, & Westfall-Greiter, 2012) and is being used as a resource in teacher education and professional development programs in the German-speaking world in an attempt to go beyond observable behaviour and sensitize practitioners to the manifold experiences which occur in their own classrooms lesson for lesson.

More about Vignette Research

Beyond the Reach of Teaching and Measurement: Methodology and Initial Findings of the Innsbruck Vignette Research. Article.


Looking at two sides of the same coin: Phenomenologically oriented vignette research and its implications für teaching and learning. Article.


Erfahrungen deuten - Deutungen erfahren: Experiential Vignettes and Anecdotes as Research, Evaluation and Mentoring Tool. Acticle.

Further reading

Agostini, E., Schratz, M. & Risse, E. (2018). Lernseits denken – erfolgreich unterrichten. Personalisiertes Lehren und Lernen in der Schule. Hamburg: AOL.

Ammann, M., Westfall-Greiter, T., & Schratz, M. (Eds.). (2017). Erfahrungen deuten - Deutungen erfahren: Vignettes and Anecdotes as Research, Evaluation and Mentoring Tool. Innsbruck: StudienVerlag.

Baur, S., & Peterlini, H. K. (Hg.). (2016). An der Seite des Lernens: Erfahrungsprotokolle aus dem Unterricht an Südtiroler Schulen - ein Forschungsbericht. Innsbruck: StudienVerlag.

Schratz, M. (2017). Lernen, das tiefer geht. Erkundungen lernseits von Unterricht. Lernende Schule, 20 (80), 4-7.

Schratz, M., Schwarz, J. F., & Westfall-Greiter, T. (2012). Lernen als bildende Erfahrung: Vignetten in der Praxisforschung. Innsbruck: StudienVerlag.

Schwarz, J. F. (2012). Lernseits forschen. Eine Akzentuierung. Erziehung & Unterricht, (9-10), 888-892.

Schwarz, J. F. & Schratz, M. (2014). Hospitieren –  Beobachten – Miterfahren. Die Forschungshaltung in der Innsbrucker Vignettenforschung. Journal für Schulentwicklung, 14(1), 39-43.

Westfall-Greiter, T. & Hofbauer, C. (2017). Lernkraft freisetzen: Den lernseitigen Blick schärfen. Lernende Schule, 20 (80), Werkstatt-Beitrag, 1-16.

How leaders of successful schools in Germany translate and mediate policy for improving student learning

This research project is funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation (Stuttgart) to study 30 high performing and innovative schools that were awarded the German School Prize within the last decade. They had to undergo rigorous competitive expert verdict and on-site visits to be nominated for the yearly award. The role and position of principals in enacting policies are of special interest in understanding the practices of principals in increasing individual and collaborative capacities in schools to sustain innovation and change. The research question underlying this study is: What makes leaders of learning schools successful in creating flourishing educational settings which help improving students’ Bildung? During on-site visits data were gathered on how school leaders act their roles in day-to-day work and how they translate and mediate policies in times of prevailing reforms on the system level (Ball et al., 2012). Document analyses, participatory observation, focus group interviews with teachers and students, classroom visits and in-depth interviews are among the methods used for gathering qualitative data, a custom-made instrument helped in gaining insights into the attitudes, strategies, values and other traits of positive leadership in schools (Wiesner et al., 2015). The data gathered from all schools are consolidated by an analysis based on the grounded theory methodology (Strauss 1998) generating similarities and differences between individual schools. The different data will be merged with the perspective of developing a theory of learn-effective leadership. A phenomenological approach (Schratz et al., 2012) is used to present “poignant experiential moments” (Schratz et al., 2014) of “lived experiences” (van Manen, 1990), which give insights into processes of how leaders hold and use the space for improvement through personal professional interaction with the actors in the field.

Research team

Michael Schratz, Markus Ammann, Niels Anderegg, Alexander Bergmann, Malte Gregorzewski, Werner Mauersberg, Veronika Möltner.

Further reading

Ball, S.; Maguire, M. & Braun, A. (2012). How Schools do Policy. Policy Enactment in Secondary Schools. Oxon: Routledge.

Schratz, M.; Schwarz, J. F. & Westfall-Greiter, T. (2012). Lernen als bildende Erfahrung -  Vignetten in der Praxisforschung. Studienverlag: Innsbruck.

Schratz, M., Westfall-Greiter, T. & Schwarz, J.F. (2014). Beyond the Reach of Teaching and Measurement: Methodology and Initial Findings of the Innsbruck Vignette Research. In: Pensamiento Educativo Revista de Investigación Educacional Latinoamericana (2014) 51/1, S. 123-134.

Strauss, Anselm L. (1991): Grundlagen qualitativer Sozialforschung, Datenanalyse und Theoriebildung in der empirischen soziologischen Forschung. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, München.

van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience. Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy (SUNY series in the philosophy of education). Albany, NY: State Univ. of New York Press.

Wiesner, C., George A. C., Kemethofer, D., Schratz, M. (2015): School leadership in German speaking countries with an emphasis on Austria: a re-vision. Ricercazione, Vol. 7 (2), pp. 65-90