PDAI is on the Radio! Listen to Dr. Bethany’s Interview

PDAI is on the Radio! Listen to Dr. Bethany’s Interview and learn more about research, autism and parent activism! Go to the radio Refractive Thinker link below:


PDAI Research Model
By Bethany Mickahail, PhD

The Praxis Documentation and Aesthetic Interpretation (PDAI) model, was created by Bethany during the course of writing her 2010 PhD dissertation. The PDAI model is a mixed method continuous 4-step process: developing a praxis-change framework, collecting and documenting oral history data, creating a poetic representation, and determining resultant themes and findings through thematic and/or statistical analysis (see Figure 1). The model is continuous to reflect the change process. While Kate and Bethany were writing a chapter for The refractive thinker® – An anthology higher learning: Volume VII: Research Methodology (3rd ed.), Kate shared with Bethany that her dissertation design was a new research methodology. Bethany named the method PDAI. The chapter titled The Enlightened Pen: The Praxis Documentation and Aesthetic Interpretation (PDAI) model, clearly explains the new research method. Since completing the chapter for the Refractive Thinker Methodology series, the Andrews-Mickahail research team known as Scholarship Lighthouse, has now developed an extension of the PDAI model named, The Q squared model. The Q squared model builds on the original PDAI model and yet ventures forth in unchartered research territory. This research will be completed fall 2014.




Figure 1. Depicted within this figure are examples of possibilities that may be the outcome of each stage of the PDAI model (Mickahail & Andrews, 2013).

After the praxis or change framework is chosen, Eisner’s (1998) dimensions of educational criticism: description, interpretation, evaluation, and thematic analysis are employed. From the semi structured praxis interviews, the study participant’s descriptions, or heart stories, emerge. Instead of Eisner’s usual description and collection of data for research through observation, the description and collection of data for study are conducted through in-depth interviews, using established oral history guidelines (University of California, Berkeley, 2004; Yow, 1994) or another interview format the researcher selects. In this second stage of PDAI, documentation, the researcher adheres to the public form (Eisner, 1998) for the interview data.

Aesthetic representation is the third step of the PDAI model, and is best understood within the context of the whole model. In the first stage of the PDAI model, the researcher finalizes a framework for change or praxis, as the foundation for developing the overarching interview questions. The open-ended question format is based on a change model, such as Kotter’s 8 Step Change model (1996; see Figure 2), and serves as a praxis framework from which to conduct the interviews for the research project. Specific interview questions are based upon the stages of the researcher’s chosen change model. Researchers may want to use other change models to shape their interviews about change. There are at least 50 famous change models to access, such as Kubler Ross’ Stages of Grief.

In the third aesthetic stage, the public form (Eisner 1998), for the data (or transcribed pages of participants’ stories from our above example) is translated into a poetic display. The data are displayed aesthetically through a poetic representation format Bethany distinctively named the enlightened pen (see Figures 3 and 4), for poem and word cloud examples from their study in progress, (Mickahail & Andrews, 2014). Eisner’s educational criticism and connoisseurship is a qualitative research method that emphasizes the perception of qualities, the interpretation of significance, and the giving of public form to the content of consciousness (Eisner, 1998).

At the beginning of the fourth interpretation stage of the PDAI methodology, quantitative analysis is used to conduct a comparison and validation of the aesthetic representation with the raw interview data and the hand-coded or computerized thematic analysis. There are more aspects that are revealed in detail of the descriptive and statistical analysis. These details will be provided in aesthetic representation and statistical results in the final write up of their forthcoming study, The Q squared model: Capturing the essence of change.



Figure 2. Kotter’s (1996) 8 steps to successful change are depicted as steps toward successful change.

The PDAI model‘s aesthetic stage invites the researcher’s use of the new media, by presenting research data in word clouds, video-blogs, Info grams, and many others. The aesthetic data display options are endless and the most exciting aspect of the research model. They can change and adapt as the new media does each day. The PDAI aesthetic stage is a visual of the change process that the researcher is documenting for her research study.

This research model was presented at the International Conference on Imagination in Education in Vancouver, BC in July 2013, and also presentations for UoPX’s WebEx program through the College of the Humanities and the June UoPX Research Symposium in San Diego, 2013 and the HICE in Honolulu, January 2014. The response has been enthusiastic. We plan to present the extended research findings at conferences in Romania and San Francisco in 2014.

Aesthetic-Visual Representation Example

An example of the culminating poetry gleaned from the combined interviews that summarize the data themes and findings, are in this excerpt from the results chapter of the Mickahail study (2010).

We never went

in the wrong direction.

We always stayed

with the empirically based,

research evidence-based


We got results.

And it was the kid’s response

to treatment —

that sold the whole thing!

People were coming

into FEAT

as they were needed.

I kept saying,

“Someone if putting together this puzzle,

and it’s amazing

that everyone

keeps coming in

and coming together……”

Now looking back,

It’s not me,

it’s not another parent,

it’s not the doctor,

but it’s letting God

use us

to put this puzzle


so we can help

those with autism.


Eisner, E. W. (1998). The enlightened eye: Qualitative research and the enhancement of educational practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

Mickahail, B. K. (2010). Parents as change agents in their schools and communities, Doctoral Dissertation. Denver University, Morgridge College of Education.

Mickahail, B. & Andrews, K. (2013). The enlightened pen: Praxis documentation & aesthetic interpretation (PDAI) Model research approach. In The refractive thinker® – An anthology higher learning: Volume VII: Research Methodology (3rd ed.). Las Vegas, NV: The Refractor’s Press.

Mickahail, B. & Andrews, K. (2014). The Q squared model: Capturing the essence of change. Publication forthcoming.

University of California Berkley. (2004). Oral history of disability rights project: Gunnar Dybwad, pioneer in the parents’ movement: The campaign for public office. Berkeley, CA: The Bancroft Library, University of California. Retrieved from http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/drilm/collection/items/dybwad.html

Yow, R. V. (1994). Recording oral history: A practical guide for social scientists. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.