School & District Management Opinion

Putting Research-Practice Partnerships Into Action

By Urban Education Contributor — May 04, 2017 4 min read
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This week we are taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming to reintroduce the concept of research-practice partnerships and allow those who are just joining us to catch up. In today’s post, we reflect on the posts from previous weeks and the value of research-practice partnerships.

This post is by Nina Spitzley, Program Administrator of the National Network of Education Research-Practice Partnerships (NNERPP, @RPP_Network).

It’s been about five weeks since we first launched this blog — we hope you are enjoying learning about some of the great work done by research-practice partnerships (RPPs) from around the country. We have plenty more exciting research and insightful commentaries to share in the coming weeks, but for now, we’ll take a quick look back and reflect.

What did we learn from previous posts?

So far, we have heard from five partnerships located in various major metropolitan areas: San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Houston and most recently, Philadelphia. Topics included early education, school climate, school choice and segregation and, more than once, English Language Learner research. We read about how research answered various important questions related to these topics, including questions about the effect of Transitional Kindergarten on student literacy in San Francisco, about measuring school climate in Chicago, about the effect of school choice on student segregation in New Orleans, the effectiveness of English Language Learner programs in Houston and characteristics of English Language Learners in Philadelphia.

As is often the case with research, these posts not only answered questions, but also raised new ones. For example, how can the data about English Language Learners in Philadelphia now be used to improve instruction? How important of an outcome should literacy be for Transitional Kindergarten?

Or, going beyond local contexts: Should other states consider adopting Transitional Kindergarten? How do characteristics of English Language Learners in Philadelphia compare to those in Houston and can the two cities learn from each other’s ELL programs and research? Research-practice partnerships, as defined in our previous post, are uniquely positioned to try and answer these questions as well.

Of course, we didn’t only learn about research studies done by researchers. We also learned about the practice side by hearing from practitioners — those who administer education, such as school district and state department leaders, principals, and teachers — every week. For example, we read an insightful account of a Chicago principal using the 5Essentials survey to improve his school and a New Orleans community leader’s commentary on school choice and segregation research findings. We learned about a Houston school district modifying its bilingual programming following research findings on what works best for English Language Learners and actively working with researchers on follow-up studies.

How do the RPPs showcased in these posts bridge the research-practice divide?

While the blog posts we read here come from different viewpoints — generally, a researcher viewpoint or a practitioner viewpoint — there is not a single post that does not reference the other side and its importance. Instead, you’ll find that a common thread throughout all the posts is the collaboration between researchers and practitioners in many aspects prior to, during, and after specific research projects: Blog posts frequently mention practitioners guiding research questions, researchers seeking practitioner input, researchers and practitioners sharing data before and during research projects, and later, putting research implementation into practice sparking further research.

This recurring element of research-practice collaboration is to be expected in the entries of our blog; after all, our contributors are exclusively research-practice partnerships, which are formed precisely with the purpose of overcoming the research-practice gap by collaborating. By bringing together the research side and the practice side in education, which share a common concern for improved student outcomes but have historically differed significantly in their approaches, RPPs seek to produce more relevant research and increase the use of research evidence in decision making.

The posts featured in this blog illustrate what that can actually look like. As such, even blogging about research projects and outcomes and their implications for practice might contribute to showcasing the value of research-practice partnerships. In our initial introduction post to this blog, we identified one overarching goal: To showcase the close connection between research and practice and the mutually beneficial nature of the relationships formed in RPPs. We hope by bringing together researcher and practitioner voices, this blog is doing just that and can itself be a tool that contributes to a closer research-practice connection.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be hearing from a couple of the Regional Educational Laboratories and from RPPs located in Louisville, New York City, and Portland. We are excited to hear about more research projects and findings, lessons learned, opinions and commentaries, and collaborations from across the country!

The National Network of Education Research-Practice Partnerships (NNERPP), housed at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, aims to develop and support research-practice partnerships in education in order to improve the connection between research, policy, and practice. Connect with NNERPP on Twitter.

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The opinions expressed in Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.