Aside from funding and data sharing agreements, another key foundational component that research-practice partnerships should consider early on is the types of communications protocols that should be in place. These agreements can help clarify expectations for both sides of the partnership and lessen the chances of damaging early relationships.

For example, how often should researchers and practitioners come together? Where will meetings take place? How will practitioners stay engaged throughout the research process, especially if it’s mainly being conducted at the research institution? Do agreements need to be made regarding the publication of research findings? Are there protocols for establishing how unexpected research results will be handled internally and externally?

Some tips from partnerships in NNERPP include:


  • Meet regularly — this can be anywhere from every week to once a month. It depends on what is appropriate given the demands of the work. In particular, share interim research findings with practitioners as it becomes available to get their feedback as often as possible.
  • Some meetings should take place in neutral locations, but often it is a nice gesture for researchers to meet at the practitioners’ home base of operations. Other times, call-in technology that allows users to meet “face”-to-“face” virtually may be a great alternative.
  • Many of the RPPs in NNERPP have a “no surprises” clause in their agreements to ensure that external communications are managed collaboratively and the message can be shaped intentionally.
  • It is not the case, however, that research findings, as unexpected and negative they may turn out to be, are swept under the rug. Partnerships generally do not hide from research, but as mentioned earlier, they work internally to manage the message. 


“Talking the Walk: A Communication Manual for Partnership Practitioners”

Authors: Sue McManus and Ros Tennyson

Year: 2008

This manual, a publication from The Partnering Initiative, offers advice and tools for effective communication within and beyond partnerships of any kind. 


“Going Public: Writing about Research in Everyday Language”

Authors: Mark Dynarski and Ellen Kisker

Year: 2014

This report was prepared for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and helps researchers communicate with policymakers and practitioners about research design, measurement, and data analysis in plain language. 

“REL Guide: Graphic Design for Researchers”

Year: 2014

This REL guide outlines how researchers can effectively use design to better and more clearly communicate about their research and get readers’ attention. 


“So You Think You Want to Conduct Research in a School District?”

Author: Hella Bel Hadj Amor

Year: 2014

This post on Education Northwest‘s blog Northwest Matters provides practical tips for researchers seeking to approach school districts about conducting research.

“Brokering the Research-Practice Gap: A Typology”

Authors: Jennifer Watling Neal, Zachary P. Neal, Mariah Kornbluh, Kristen J. Mills, and Jennifer A. Lawlor

Year: 2015

This article published in the American Journal of Community Psychology applies an existing typology of brokerage to examine what types facilitate the flow of information between researchers and practitioners.

“Convincing the Public of the Importance of Research-Practice Partnerships”

Authors: Bill Penuel and Dan Gallagher

This one pager outlines a brief argument for why research-practice partnerships are important.




“Toolkit for Districts Working with External Researchers”

This toolkit by REL Northeast & Islands for districts working with external researchers includes a module about how to disseminate research results externally (Module 5).



“Building Knowledge Mobilization Plans”

This three-page summary produced by the Knowledge Network for Applied Education Research provides a five-part framework for strategies to transfer knowledge into practice and policy settings. 



“MIST District Feedback Report District B”

Authors: Paul Cobb, Thomas Smith, Erin Henrick, Dan Berebitsky, Lynsey Gibbons, and Adrian Larbi-Cherif

Year: 2011

This is an example of a form of internal communication partnerships can consider: MIST (Middle School Mathematics and the Institutional Setting of Teaching) prepares annual feedback reports for each collaborating district with findings about how the district’s instructional strategies played out and recommendations for adjustments. 

“MIST District Feedback Report District C”

Authors: Paul Cobb, Thomas Smith, Erin Henrick, Dan Berebitsky, Annie Garrison, Brooks Rosenquist, and Jonee Wilson

Year: 2011

This is another MIST (Middle School Mathematics and the Institutional Setting of Teaching) District report example.