How Do You Make Education Research ‘Accessible and Usable’ for Teachers?

Nearly every week, if not every day, a new report comes out detailing the latest findings and results around what works—or doesn’t—when it comes to the latest instructional approaches and tech tools. But what’s clearly not working is getting educators to pay attention to this research to inform their own work in the classroom.

In the spirit of putting the educators at the center of education research, the nonprofit Jefferson Education Exchange (JEX) and the Institute of Education Science (IES)—the independent research arm of the U.S. Department of Education—have joined forces to embark on a listening tour to understand if and how their current research strategy is missing the mark.

Over the next few weeks, officials from JEX, which is based out of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, and IES are visiting Omaha, Neb. and Raleigh, N.C. to “enter into serious discussions” with teachers, principals and superintendents, says Mark Schneider, the director of the IES.

As is, it seems educators give minimal weight to what research says, much less how it’s delivered, and the IES wants to change that.

“We’ve been producing really good research … but ultimately, if we care about student success, we need teachers involved in the process,” Schneider tells EdSurge. “We need to understand what kind of work and research is most useful for them. We need to understand how to get it in their hands, and then how to make it work better.”

With educators’ input, the IES will stick to the same research science that it’s been using for years, Schneider says. But it will expand its purview to consider ways of translating that science into something “accessible and usable” that teachers can implement—through products, curriculum, intervention methods, teaching styles.

“The stakes are really high,” he says. “We really want to make sure whatever we do that’s proven to be effective can actually be used by teachers, and we also want to be able to help teachers understand when something they’ve been using is proven to be ineffective.”

The purpose of the visits to Nebraska and North Carolina this fall is to gauge whether educators are interested in having a bigger say in the research conducted in their field, and if so, what sort of role they’d like to have, adds Bart Epstein, CEO of JEX.

“We need to hear directly from them what their relationship is with education research,” he says. “What form does it get to them? What do they wish there was more of, or different? Who should be advocating for them?”

One of the reasons JEX and IES are partnering on this project, Epstein says, is “to signal to educators that IES wants and needs their voices.” Then, hopefully, the educators can go to their professional associations and use that platform to take collective action, he says.

“I hope that at the convenings, [IES] hears loudly and clearly from multiple educator stakeholders that they very much want to be involved in setting the national research agenda, that they have needs and they want to be listened to,” Epstein says. “In response, I hope IES takes action to develop formal channels of communication.”

Following the two field research gatherings, the IES and JEX will convene leaders from more than 40 professional education associations on Nov. 27 in Washington, D.C. to discuss how research can better incorporate the educator perspective to improve educational outcomes.

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