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Opportunities and Oversights: Potential Linkages Between Research and Practice

Tue, April 9, 12:20 to 1:50pm, Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Mezzanine Level, Alberta


Objectives. Research use is often a function of the relationship between communities in the production of research and in education decision-making (Coburn & Stein, 2010; Cousins & Simon, 1996; Honig & Venkateswaran, 2012; Huberman, 1990; Landry et al., 2001). Lavis et al. (2003) categorizes direct relations as producer-pushed, user-pulled, and exchange, but we also recognize the importance of understanding indirect relationships via various organizations and people positioned that serve as research brokers, intermediaries, or boundary spanners (Neal, et al, 2015), and may be found within either research or practice as well as in a “third space” in-between. The Center for Research Use in Education seeks to understand connections between research and practice broadly, including those associated with use and production of research. More specifically, we seek to identify opportunities within the current ecosystem through which both direct and indirect relationships between research and practice are strengthened. Drawing on preliminary data, we use our conceptual framework (Authors, 2018) to analyze four such levers as a means of provoking conversation about broadening the roles and actors in the research-practice ecosystem.

Methods and data. We used a mixed methods approach to development of the Survey of Evidence in Education (SEE). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with school-based practitioners, intermediaries, and researchers, and coded through an iterative process guided by an a priori framework. The survey was piloted in two rounds to more than 60 schools and 1500 school-based practitioners and analyzed using descriptive statistics and psychometric analyses. We draw on these sources to identify and analyze illustrative examples using dimensions of our framework.

Results. We focus our discussion on the following four levers:
1. Academic preparation. The two-way interaction within academic programs can provide opportunities for practitioners to access both research and researchers and for researchers to access practitioner-based knowledge.
2. Partnerships around formal analysis of school/district data. Data suggest formal analysis of school/district data is more influential in decision-making than research. Fostering relationships around data may circumvent mistrust of research and build relationships across boundaries.
3. Unions as knowledge mobilizers. Practitioners’ networks for accessing research-based information rely on professional associations, and, notably, local and state unions, creating a need to view unions as more than political entities but vehicles for mobilizing research-based knowledge.
4. Accessibility of research-based knowledge. Media that communicate research shape what information is shared and how it is shared, often creating challenges for both access and critical consumption. Knowledge of what practitioners and researchers value can help leverage media in bridging a communication divide.

Significance. Our purpose in this presentation is to highlight what our early findings suggest are potentially unrealized opportunities to increase the coherence and cohesiveness of the research-practice ecosystem. The four examples point to different actors and relationships but also different foci of the work in which research and practitioners might jointly engage. Implications include additional research to deepen our understanding of the frequency and efficacy of these opportunities as well as a cross-institutional dialogue about how to cultivate these opportunities through organizational and public policy.


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