RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIPS: BASICS

NNERPP RPP KNOWLEDGE CLEARINGHOUSE

WHAT IS A RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIP?

Research-practice partnerships (RPPs) at their very core are intentional, formalized joint efforts between agencies that primarily administer education (such as state education agencies, local education agencies, or schools) and those that primarily research education (such as public and private universities, research institutions, or community groups that conduct research) to impact decision making in education through the use of research evidence. While some research-practice collaborations may be formed around particular projects, we reserve the term “partnership” for those efforts that are ongoing and meant to be long-term. A distinguishing feature of partnership work is the purposeful integration of expertise from two often disconnected industries: practice and research in education. Some in the literature have further characterized this relationship as “mutually beneficial,” highlighting the complementary nature this type of work affords the two parties involved.

RESOURCES | What is a research-practice partnership?

WHAT IS A RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIP?

Paula Arce-Trigatti | 2017

Blogpost featured in NNERPP’s EdWeek blog, “Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice

RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIPS: BUILDING TWO-WAY STREETS OF ENGAGEMENT

Vivian Tseng, John Q. Easton, and Lauren H. Supplee | 2017

Social Policy Report from the Society for Research in Child Development

RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIPS IN EDUCATION: OUTCOMES, DYNAMICS, & OPEN QUESTIONS

Cynthia E. Coburn and William R. Penuel | 2016

Educational Researcher article

A BETTER RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIP

Erin Henrick, Marco A. Muñoz, and Paul Cobb | 2016

Phi Delta Kappan article

CONCEPTUALIZING RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIPS AS JOINT WORK AT BOUNDARIES

William R. Penuel, Anna-Ruth Allen, Cynthia E. Coburn, and Caitlin Farrell | 2015

Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk article

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF RPPS?

There are several different structural arrangements that research-practice partnerships (RPPs) can take; these have evolved (and will likely continue to evolve) over time. To better reflect the current state of the field, we will focus on identifying the multiple facets of RPPs that can give rise to their differences.

Structure: As presented in the definition of RPPs, a key feature is the joint collaboration between agencies that primarily administer education (such as state education agencies, local education agencies, or schools) and agencies that primarily research education (such as public or private universities, research institutions, or community groups that specialize in research). Different combinations of these various agencies can produce a variety of structural arrangements across RPPs. This in turn will affect the number and type of students impacted by RPP work, the level at which decision making is impacted, and the extent to which other stakeholders are involved directly with the work.

Interactions: The intensity and types of interaction occuring between practitioners and researchers within the context of the partnership can vary greatly and often depends on the research approaches employed. For example, partnerships that make use of design-based research often work much more closely with practitioners on various aspects of the research than those working with quasi-experimental methods.

Output: The nature and scope of the research questions investigated by a partnership are typically related to the disciplinary training of those leading the RPP. This can lead to differences across RPPs, in terms of output. For example, some partnerships may be more focused on implementation, and thus, tool kits and reports geared towards practitioners may be more common. On the other hand, some may focus more on informing policy; technical papers or policy briefs may be their goal.

In their 2013 white paper, Coburn, Penuel, and Geil initially identified three different district-level partnership arrangements: research alliances, design-based partnerships, and networked improvement communities. We encourage the reader to explore the paper as well as the case studies (available below) to learn more about these definitions.

RESOURCES | Are there different types of research-practice partnerships?

5 QUESTIONS ON DESIGN-BASED RESEARCH PARTNERSHIPS, ANSWERED

NNERPP & William R. Penuel | 2017

Blogpost on NNERPP’s EdWeek blog, “Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice

THE CASE FOR IMPROVEMENT SCIENCE

Faith Connolly, Marc L. Stein, and Tami K. Smith | 2017

Blogpost on NNERPP’s EdWeek blog, “Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice

A UNIVERSITY AND DISTRICT PARTNERSHIP CLOSES THE RESEARCH-TO-CLASSROOM GAP

Laura Wentworth, Richard Carranza, and Deborah Stipek | 2016

Phi Delta Kappan article

DATA USE AND INQUIRY IN RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIPS: 4 CASE EXAMPLES

Manuelito Biag, Amy Gerstein, Kendra Fehrer, Monika Sanchez, and Laurel Sipes | 2016

Report produced by the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities

WHY RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIPS?

Why would we want to start a research-practice partnership or work in this context? Who does this actually benefit: researchers or practitioners? Why change “business as usual” given the large challenges associated with bringing together two typically independent activities (research and practice) in education?

These are some commonly asked questions we’ve heard and fielded throughout NNERPP’s existence. Based on the collection of personal anecdotes from NNERPP members, readings from the field, and first-hand observations, we’ve compiled a short list of important reasons for why we believe RPPs hold vast potential to reimagine how education decisions are made and to challenge the conditions under which evidence is used when making those decisions.

Research-practice partnerships are hard work. This is not an adventure one embarks on without deliberate thought. Tenure incentives for researchers are generally unsupportive of the extra time required to nurture relationships with practice-side representatives, favoring long term research studies that prioritize publication over applicability. For practitioners, carving out time from an already too-packed daily schedule to work with an unfamiliar external partner may seem impossible.

The desire to disrupt the status quo and produce something that matters drives participation in RPPs. Practice-side agents have expressed that the ability to not only shape the selection of research questions, but to influence the production of research as well, are important benefits they derive from this collaboration. We’ve heard repeatedly from researchers engaged in RPPs that wanting to make a difference with their research has catalyzed their efforts in seeking out this type of work.

Traditional research has been criticized for being inaccessible, irrelevant, and too late for practitioners hoping to address problems of practice. Because RPPs bring together two areas in education that have historically been siloed from one another and reimagine how the two might work to solve problems of practice collaboratively, there is great potential for research to instead be use-able, relevant, and timely. Ultimately, both researchers and practitioners who choose to work in an RPP recognize the importance of having access to high quality evidence from a trusted source to inform decisions that will impact their students.

RESOURCES | Why research-practice partnerships?

CREATING PARTNERSHIPS: LEARNING NEW WAYS TO CONNECT

Vivian Tseng, John Easton, and Lauren Supplee | 2016

William T. Grant Foundation blog post

THE POTENTIAL OF PARTNERSHIPS: TALKING POINTS FOR DIFFERENT AUDIENCES

William R. Penuel and Dan Gallagher | No date recorded

Short brief produced for the LearnDBIR website

EXAMPLES OF RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIPS

Here you’ll find a sampling of narratives exploring different types of research-practice partnerships.

RESOURCES | Examples of research-practice partnerships

LESSONS LEARNED FROM DESIGN-RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP WORK

NNERPP & Douglas A. Watkins | 2017

Blogpost on NNERPP’s EdWeek blog, “Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice

ESTABLISHING AND SUSTAINING NICS: LESSONS FROM MICHIGAN & MINNESOTA

Amy R. Proger, Monica P. Bhatt, Victoria Cirks, and Deb Gurke 2017

REL Midwest report

PARTNERING TO IMPROVE: INSIGHTS FROM BALTIMORE

Christian Licier, Jarrod Bolte, and Marc L. Stein 2017

Blogpost on NNERPP’s EdWeek blog, “Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice

LESSONS FROM A DISTRICT-UNIV. RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP: THE HOUSTON EDUCATION RESEARCH CONSORTIUM

Ruth N. López Turley and Carla Stevens | 2015

Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis article

CASE STUDY I: THE JOHN W. GARDNER CENTER AND REDWOOD CITY 2020

Cynthia E. Coburn, William R. Penuel, and Kimberly E. Geil | 2013

William T. Grant Foundation white paper

CASE STUDY II: RESEARCH ALLIANCE FOR NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS

Cynthia E. Coburn, William R. Penuel, and Kimberly E. Geil | 2013

William T. Grant Foundation white paper

CASE STUDY III: THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON & BELLEVUE SCHOOL DISTRICT PARTNERSHIP

Cynthia E. Coburn, William R. Penuel, and Kimberly E. Geil | 2013

William T. Grant Foundation white paper

CASE STUDY IV: CARNEGIE FOUNDATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF TEACHING'S NICS

Cynthia E. Coburn, William R. Penuel, and Kimberly E. Geil | 2013

William T. Grant Foundation white paper

CCSR: A NEW MODEL FOR THE ROLE OF RESEARCH IN SUPPORTING URBAN SCHOOL REFORM

Melissa Roderick, John Q. Easton, and Penny Bender Sebring | 2009

Report produced by the UChicago Consortium