RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIPS: THEORIES OF ACTION

NNERPP RPP KNOWLEDGE CLEARINGHOUSE

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Below you’ll find answers and resources to the following questions:

WHAT IS A RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIP THEORY OF ACTION?

Broadly defined, a research-practice partnership’s theory of action identifies a set of goals or objectives the partnership is interested in working towards and describes the process by which the partnership expects to achieve those aims. In more basic terms, a theory of action clarifies how change is expected to occur. The format of a research-practice partnership’s theory of action will vary considerably, especially given the nature of the goals, the current capacity and constraints of participating organizations, and preferences for how the work will unfold. Developing and implementing a partnership theory of action is still a relatively new process for the larger RPP field and we expect to be able to provide more information on this going forward. In the meantime, we provide a sample template as well as some guiding literature that will help inform your initial thinking on this below.

RESOURCES | What is a research-practice partnership theory of action?

WHAT IS A THEORY OF ACTION? THREE MAIN REQUIREMENTS

UC Davis School of Education | No date recorded

Post on the UC Davis SOE website

WHAT ARE THEORIES OF CHANGE?

CDA Collaborative | 2017

Primer on theories of action dissecting its components

THE EXPANDED SUCCESS INITIATIVE THEORY OF ACTION

Research Alliance for New York City Schools | 2018

Report including a sample theory of action (see p. ES-iv)

WHY DO WE NEED A THEORY OF ACTION?

We have learned over time that a research-practice partnership theory of action is critical to establishing and operating RPPs with the potential for success. Without one, a partnership risks a number of possible opportunities for failure.

These may include having untested, unrealistic assumptions about how the partnership’s activities will lead to changes in practice; allocating already scarce resources inefficiently; having an inability to learn about why something is or is not working; and making it difficult to communicate and justify to multiple stakeholders why the partnership is engaging in a particular activity.

By investing time in developing and implementing a partnership theory of action, the RPP may be able to enhance their potential for success through the following: clarifying the activities necessary to support the hoped for change; communicating the partnership’s priorities both internally and externally; having a platform for negotiating roles across both the research and practice sides of the partnership; and enabling the partnership to continuously learn and improve on partnership processes, activities, and outputs.

RESOURCES | Why do we need a theory of action?

WHAT'S A THEORY OF ACTION AND WHY DO WE NEED ONE?

Harriet Thurber Rasmussen | 2015

Blogpost

MAPPING THE COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH PROCESS

Julie R. Kochanek, Carrie Scholz, and Alicia N. Garcia | 2015

Education Policy Analysis Archives article

HOW DO I CO-DEVELOP A THEORY OF ACTION WITH MY PARTNERS?

Because there are a variety of dimensions to consider when developing the partnership’s theory of action, there is no one accepted way to co-develop one. Additionally, our knowledge of how theories of action might be utilized to support successful partnering is still in its infancy. While we continue to expand our knowledge on how these might work, here we offer several resources that provide some initial thinking on how one might go about creating a research-practice partnership theory of action, including sample templates.

RESOURCES | How do I co-develop a theory of action with my partners?

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT THROUGH NICs: ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS & THEORY OF ACTION FACILITATOR'S GUIDE

REL Midwest | 2018

Facilitator Guide for Networked Improvement Communities

EDUCATOR TOOL: THEORY OF ACTION

Creating Communities of Innovation Research Initiative | 2018

Tool for educators

CHANGING THE MODEL OF KNOWLEDGE CREATION & USE: RPPS

Julie Kochanek | 2017

Set of slides from a keynote presentation (slide 42 provides a template)

THEORY OF ACTION TEMPLATE

Stanford | 2016

Blank template 

RESEARCH-PRACTICE: A PRACTICAL CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

Laura Desimone, Tonya Wolford, and Kirsten Lee Hill | 2016

AERA Open article providing a framework for planning, building, implementing, and monitoring partnerships

DEVELOPING YOUR THEORY OF ACTION: A FACILITATION GUIDE

Catherine Borgman-Arboleda | 2012

Facilitation Guide from the Action Evaluation Collaborative