Introducing: the NNERPP RPP Knowledge Clearinghouse


 

Paula Arce-Trigatti

Paula Arce-Trigatti

Director, NNERPP

Greetings, NNERPP community! We are so thrilled to officially announce and launch Phase I of our newest efforts in spreading knowledge around all-things-RPPs, the NNERPP RPP Knowledge Clearinghouse! In this blog post, we’d like to share the intention behind the Clearinghouse, a few navigational tips to help get you acquainted with this new resource, and our hopes for the Clearinghouse going forward.

The purpose of the NNERPP RPP Knowledge Clearinghouse is to systematically collect, organize, and synthesize the numerous pieces of knowledge on education research-practice partnerships that are making their way online. In this contribution, we integrate across several resources in order to incorporate as much relevant knowledge as

possible. Resources vary by type, including reading materials, “doing” materials such as templates or model examples, and videos. Additionally, we have made a special effort to present the work in a user-focused orientation.

The intended audience for the Knowledge Clearinghouse includes those who are interested in launching an RPP or are currently working in an RPP. With this in mind, we’ve organized the entry into the Clearinghouse across three main topic areas based on these two different audience strands:

 

For those that are brand new to education RPPs:  We recommend you start here, if this describes your current RPP efforts. “Building the Foundation” is organized into nine general topic areas that we at NNERPP have frequently addressed when fielding phone calls and informational meetings with those interested in getting into this work. Resources in this collection include, for example, defining research-practice partnerships, discussing differences in RPP arrangements, addressing funding and staffing concerns, as well as considering other important infrastructure necessary to get the work going.

For those that are currently working in an RPP, part I (coming soon!) We recommend you start here, if this describes your current RPP efforts, once we’ve launched Phase II. The “Making It Work” section of the clearinghouse is targeted towards those that have experience working in an RPP and would like to develop and refine their current efforts. Resources in this collection will build on those contained in “Building the Foundation” and furthermore, include additional topics such as addressing the sustainability of RPPs.

For those that are currently working in an RPP, part II (coming soon!) This final section is also geared towards those that have worked or are currently working in an RPP, but have more extensive experience. The “Continuous Improvement” section of the collection will focus exclusively on several aspects related to the effectiveness of RPPs. For example, questions that pertain to what it means to be “successful” and strategies that will contribute to the continuous improvement of the RPP will be discussed and supported with resources.

Finally, our goal is for the Knowledge Clearinghouse to stay current by updating it regularly with new and exciting resources contributed to the field. While we will make every effort to achieve this, we also invite you to help us by submitting your own work via the buttons located on each resources page (example below).

Our hope is that you find this new collection of resources valuable to your work. If there are additional suggestions you’d like to make or would like to provide feedback on how to improve the Knowledge Clearinghouse, please drop us a line! Happy exploring!

New year, new goals? RPPs and planning for success


 

Happy new year, everyone! I hope the ushering in of 2017 went smoothly for you and brought with it much joy. As is typical during these exciting early days of a new year, many of us set out a list of resolutions, goals, or intentions to guide our actions for the coming year. (Given that it is already January 6, hopefully you haven’t fallen off the track just yet!). NNERPP is no exception, as I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on

all of our accomplishments in our first full year of existence, and enthusiastically planning for the many projects we have in store for year 2 (stay tuned…).

This exercise is particularly useful for assessing the previous year’s activities to determine what degree of “success” has been accomplished; on the other hand, it can also help clarify where new goals should lie. Because NNERPP has four main objectives that guide its work, this is a relatively straightforward task. In the case of research-practice partnerships, however, how should we go about this opportunity? What activities should be assessed to gauge “success”? What types of goals are appropriate for a new year?

The question of “success” or how to measure “effectiveness” regarding RPPs has been raised in the literature recently, and we’ve seen it be an ongoing topic of conversation throughout 2016. While answers remain elusive, it is becoming increasingly important for partnerships to consider this aspect of their operations, as it directly affects the health of the organization. We explored this topic at the 2016 NNERPP Annual Forum back in August and talked about some of the challenges.

One of the key concerns that surfaced was noting the multiple objectives that guide the work of an RPP, given the different roles of those working within the partnership (i.e., researchers, practitioners, policymakers, postdocs, and so forth). For example, during our discussions, practitioners were more likely to suggest that positively impacting student outcomes should be a top priority for the RPP. The researcher group, though, shared that a top priority for them was ensuring that research was actually used to make decisions.

Should both objectives be considered in an overall schematic intended to measure RPP success? Perhaps, although both suffer from measurement challenges albeit for slightly different reasons. Impacting student outcomes, while a highly valuable and important goal for a partnership, can be difficult to connect to partnership work directly, given the large number of parameters at play influencing education policy in general (see here, for example). In terms of measuring research use in practice, research suggests that districts’ use of evidence is “complex and at times messy.” Liz Farley-Ripple, co-director of the IES-funded Center for Research Use in Education, further details four challenges to measuring the use of research evidence in practice.

In addition to measurement challenges, both of these objectives likely require a longer time frame in which to assess progress. So what might an RPP focus on in the meantime? In a survey administered to participants prior to the 2016 NNERPP Annual Forum respondents indicated that building trust and cultivating relationships were the most important factors for ensuring a productive partnership. These goals, while not specifically indicative of whether or not the RPP is itself successful, are imperative for “greasing the wheel,” so to speak. In the absence of efforts to build trust or relationships across the different roles of the partnership, the work itself will most likely be adversely affected and thus, larger objectives will not be met.

How should one go about improving trust and relationships, then? From our conversations with NNERPP members, we hear several mention the importance of opportunities for repeated interactions and further, the development of new systems or routines to engage multiple stakeholders. A shared respect for all partners is also key, as is the recognition of the varied expertise brought by all of those working in the partnership. We’d also like to share the following resource for those looking to refine their facilitation skills (a special thanks to Laura Wentworth of the Stanford-SFUSD Partnership for passing it along!): Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, by Sam Kaner.

We will continue to work together to develop measures of effectiveness going forward; in the meantime, we hope these will give you a starting point from which to launch your reflection of 2016’s RPP activities and your upcoming partnership goals for 2017. Onwards!

Conversations with NCRPP: How can Research-Practice Partnerships Support Educational Leaders’ Use of Research?


 

Caitlin Farrell

Caitlin Farrell

Director, NCRPP

Note: We’re cross-blogging in September with NCRPP and NNERPP! Read below for how partnerships can play an important role in research use in education. Head over to the NCRPP website for Paula’s report on the recent NNERPP annual forum.

The National Center for Research in Policy and Practice studies how educational leaders—including school district leaders and principals—use research when making decisions and what can be done to make research findings more useful and relevant for those leaders. Earlier this year, we released findings from our survey of 733 educational leaders in the nation’s mid- and large-sized school districts. Together, the findings create a portrait of district work where research-practice partnerships can play a critical role.

 

District leaders viewed research as valuable, credible, and relevant. Respondents reported very positive attitudes about the value of educational research, with nearly all endorsing the ideas that research can address practical problems and that researchers provide a valuable service to educational practitioners. Leaders endorsed the idea that research is relevant to practice, but indicated that the time lag between conducting and publishing research can decrease its usefulness.

District leaders used research to inform decisions, expand understanding, and persuade others. Respondents most commonly reported instrumental use of research. Common forms of instrumental use were to design professional development for teachers and administrators and direct resources to programs. With respect to conceptual use, 71% of respondents indicated that the research they encountered had expanded their understanding of an issue. Among the symbolic uses presented to respondents, leaders most frequently reported using research to convince others or using research selectively to support a decision.

Networks matter for access to research. We asked leaders to select from 14 different sources where they obtained research relevant to their work. Leaders were most likely to access research through professional associations and professional conferences. Leaders were less likely to access research through individual researchers or from stand-alone websites, like the What Works Clearinghouse or the National Center for Education Statistics. Opportunities to interact with other professionals and/or researchers around research-based ideas seem to be quite important.

Across survey results, we see an appetite for research from educational leaders, particularly research that is timely and relevant to the district context. There are a range of different activities where research can be brought to bear within the flow of district work. Access to useful research seems to be a social phenomenon.

If this is the state of affairs for educational leaders, we see a promising role for partnerships between researchers and practitioners. Research partnerships engage in joint research and development activities with practitioners. Rooted in districts’ identified needs, the research efforts may be seen as more usable and actionable. It may also be more credible to local practitioners and policymakers because it was done with their students and their local conditions. The research developed out of the partnership can fit the local needs, whether it be related to curriculum selection, design of professional development, or creation of new policies. The partnership may also provide a needed infrastructure to support the social side of research use, enabling research ideas to flow between trusted partners.

Caitlin Farrell is Director of the National Center of Research in Policy and Practice (NCRPP). See here for more on NCRPP or here for additional survey findings.