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Research & Evaluations

The work of the Center has been the subject of writing, research, and evaluation – both commissioned work directly related to our programs, as well as other work arising from synergistic partnerships with writers and researchers. We have supported research and evaluation that ensures program improvement, demonstrates a compelling case for bringing circles of trust into the world, and contributes to public discourse about this work.

As a result of participating in circles of trust, people report:

  • a stronger sense of purpose and integrity
  • expanded capacity to be fully present to others in ways that affirm and heal
  • increased skill in asking the honest, open questions that help others uncover their own inner wisdom
  • greater confidence to seek or create communities of support
  • increased understanding, appreciation and respect for human differences, based in deeper awareness of the identity and  integrity of ourselves and others
  • greater capacity to build the relational trust that helps institutions pursue their missions
  • more courage to live and lead authentically
  • renewed passion for their work or vocation
  • a deeper commitment to leadership and service to others

You can find research and evaluations below for the following topics. Contact Executive Director Terasa Cooley for more information about current and planned studies.

Leading Together Research

Courage to Teach Evaluations

Circle of Trust Research & Evaluations

Circles of Trust in Higher Education

Leading Together Research

The Courage & Renewal pilot study, Leading Together: Building Adult Community in Schools is grounded in a logic model developed in collaboration with Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman and colleagues at the Social Development Laboratory of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

Open PDF Leading Together Two-Year Study Final Report from the University of Virginia (July 2014).

“Leading Together has all the critical features needed to become a model for school change: effective school leadership, positive adult relationships in schools, and relational trust. Leading Together is the only existing intervention that brings principals, teachers, and other school staff together to pause, reflect, learn skills, and then, return to their school to produce change.”
— Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman

Courage to Teach Evaluations

pdf Courage to Teach in New Hampshire: A Ten-Year Retrospective (2014). Courage & Renewal facilitators Jean Haley and Anne Riley report on a decade of Courage to Teach, studied in collaboration with Antioch University’s Tomey Center of Business Management’s and underwritten by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Open PDF Finding Common Threads: Selected Summary of the Research on the Courage to Teach Program and the Process of Teacher Formation (August 2005) Mike Poutiatine, PhD

Open PDF Longitudinal Evaluation of the Courage to Teach Program (March 2000), Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner.  The study cites Courage to Teach as exemplary professional development and foundational to successful education reform with seven key findings:

  1. Teacher’s passion for teaching is rejuvenated;
  2. Teachers undertake new leadership roles;
  3. Teachers seek out interactions with colleagues;
  4. Teachers practice reflective inquiry;
  5. Teachers change the way they teach;
  6. Teachers see tangible benefits for their students;
  7. Teachers practice more mindful living.


Circle of Trust Research & Evaluations

Open PDF Evaluation of Circle of Trust Retreats (December 2007) Janet Smith, University of Canberra School of Education and Community Studies, explored the impact of Circle of Trust (COT) retreats and the learnings and personal and professional applications in the lives of participants. In particular, interviewees noted COT retreats provided lifelong learnings such as reflectivity, intentionality, self-awareness, listening, questioning and group work skills.

Circles of Trust Examined In-Depth in Academic Journal

New Directions for Teaching and LearningTransformational teaching and learning are possible only within a space that encourages participation of the whole self—our hopes and dreams, as well as our doubts and fears. Such teaching and learning require a space where vulnerability is valued and not knowing is embraced as an essential step on the learning journey.

An academic journal devoted its summer issue to exploring a variety of educational initiatives that incorporate the principles and practices of the Circle of Trust approach as developed by Parker J. Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal.

New Directions for Teaching and Learning – Special Issue: Teaching and Learning from the Inside Out: Revitalizing Ourselves and Our Institutions, Number 130, Summer 2012 (Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company, 2012) was edited by Courage & Renewal facilitator Margaret Golden, Ed.D., associate professor and director of The Courage to Teach Initiative in the School of Education and Counseling Psychology at Dominican University of California.

“Even though most in higher education started with feelings of hope and passion for their subject and for teaching, these feelings can sometimes be lost over time as political battles, accreditation issues, state mandates, and problems with people take center stage,” writes editor-in-chief Catherine M. Wehlburg . “This volume of NDTL helps to remind us that the connections we have with ourselves, our students, our colleagues, and our disciplines are truly important and meaningful–and should take precedence over these other smaller issues.”

The journal explores the transformative power of engaging in a Circle of Trust and the research being done by the facilitators of this work.

You can purchase individual PDF chapters at the Wiley & Sons website.

  • The Principles and Practices of the Circle of Trust Approach, written by Terry Chadsey, former executive director, and Marcy Jackson, co-founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal, describes how the approach provides a structure for faculty and students to engage in teaching and learning that awaken both heart and mind.
  • Soul and role dialogues in higher education: Healing the divided self
    Paul Michalec and Gary Bower tell the story of creating an intentional community at the University of Denver, where faculty and staff embrace the tensions inherent in academia to remain vibrant members of their learning community.
  • The Circle of Trust® approach and a counselor training program: A hand in glove fit
    Judy Goodell, who teaches in the marriage and family therapy program at the University of San Francisco, describes the principles and practices as a “hand in glove fit” with the counselor training program at Portland State University.
  • Dialing in to a Circle of Trust: A “medium” tech experiment and poetic evaluation
    Chris Love uses the novel approach of creating found poems from participant interview to evaluate a distance-learning pilot program for pastors in Montana.
  • The power of paradox in learning to teach
    Karen Noordhoff examines how these principles and practices help aspiring teachers appreciate the ambiguity inherent in teaching by developing an understanding of life’s paradoxes.
  • The role of identity in transformational learning, teaching, and leading
    Michael Poutiatine and Dennis Conners analyze the role of identity development in a transformational leadership program at Gonzaga University.
  • Lessons learned from transformational professional development
    Applying the Circles of Trust pedagogy to a professional development program for K-12 educators in Texas, Twyla Miranda considers its impact on school culture and teachers’ commitment to student achievement.
  • Circles of learning in Mississippi: Community recovery and democracy building 
    Bonnie Allen and Estrus Tucker describe how a community-in-recovery and democracy-building project in Mississippi offers a new approach to social change, one that addresses the root of human suffering.
  • Measuring the impact of the Circle of Trust® approach
    Janet Smith evaluates the impact of the Circles of Trust approach on the personal and professional lives of participants from a variety of programs.

Circles of Trust in Higher Education

Circles of Trust in Higher Education Multicultural Initiatives

New Directions for Student Services Winter 2013New Directions for Student Services
Special Issue: Creating Successful Multicultural Initiatives in Higher Education and Student Affairs
Winter 2013. Volume 2013, Issue 144
Issue edited by: Sherry K. Watt, Jodi L. Linley

Courage in Multicultural Initiatives (pages 57–68)
Courage & Renewal facilitator Sherry K. Watt, Margaret Golden, and Lisa A. P. Schumacher and Luis S. Moreno
Article first published online: 19 DEC 2013 | DOI: 10.1002/ss.20069

This chapter overviews the Principles and Practices of the Circle of Trust® approach and shares an example of how those ideals informed how an instructor team facilitated a course on multiculturalism in higher education and student affairs.

Purchase entire issue or chapters from Wiley Online Store.


Courage in the Academy: Sustaining the Heart of College and University Faculty

by Courage & Renewal facilitator Sharlene Voogd Cochrane, Lesley University.

Click to download PDF of article. Open PDF

This article explores a significant element of faculty development that is often missing or given little attention. The author analyzes the results of a series of Courage Study Circles, which provided time and space for faculty members to reflect upon and revitalize their identity as teachers. The study draws on participant evaluations of yearly Study Circles and a survey of participants five years later. Responses indicate the effectiveness of these experiences, especially the opportunities for deep reflection and engagement in a safe community, in sustaining the professional practice of educators. Discussion includes specific implications for faculty development programs.

The article appeared in The Journal of Faculty Development, January 2013, Vol 27, No. 1.


Cultivating Community: Faculty Support for Teaching and Learning

by Courage & Renewal facilitator Celine Fitzmaurice, Portland State University.

Click to read the article online. Open PDF

Emerging approaches to faculty support are moving away from a “fixing” model to a “relational” model. In this article, Fitzmaurice describes a program of faculty support that places trust and community-building at the center of its efforts. The result is a program in which faculty members engage in a peer-to-peer approach to mentoring, professional exchange, assessment, and reflection.