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IES Grant

Title: National Center for Research in Policy and Practice
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Penuel, William R. Awardee: Regents of the University of Colorado
Program: National Research and Development Centers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (7/1/2014-6/30/2019) Award Amount: $4,995,353
Award Number: R305C140008
Description:

Topic: Knowledge Utilization

Purpose: The National Center for Research in Policy and Practice will develop and validate measures to document research use in schools, understand the conditions under which research is used and the factors that promote or inhibit research use in schools, and identify and examine researcher practices that are associated with greater use of research in schools and school districts. In addition, the Center will engage in leadership and outreach activities that will help school and district leaders apply study findings, including interactive meetings and use of technology to foster meaningful exchange among researchers, practitioners, and other stakeholders on how research can best be used to improve school performance and student outcomes.

Research Projects: There are three major components of the focused program of research for the Center: one measurement study and two descriptive studies. The purpose of the measurement study is to develop tools for observing and measuring research use in schools and school districts. The purpose of the first descriptive study (Reading and Math Instructional Decision-making in Practice: Enablers and Inhibitors of Research Use in Local Education Systems) is to understand the conditions under which research is used and factors that promote or inhibit research use in schools and school districts. The purpose of the second descriptive study (Descriptive Study of Research Use in Research-Practice Partnerships) is to identify skills or strategies that researchers can adopt to make their work more meaningful to and impactful on education practice.

Study 1: Measurement Study: The Center will develop a set of survey measures, interview protocols, observation protocols, and qualitative coding guides that will focus on research use. All measures will be iteratively developed. Both a small pilot test and a field test will be used to validate the survey measures. For the small pilot test, 200 school instructional policy decision-makers will complete the survey. For the field test, 600 school instructional policy decision-makers from the 1,000 largest districts in the U.S. will complete the final version of the survey. The research team will assess the validity and reliability of the survey instruments in measuring school and district leaders' research use, and the variation in the ways district and school leaders use research in their decision-making practices.

Study 2: Reading and Math Instructional Decision-making in Practice: Enablers and Inhibitors of Research Use in Local Education Systems: In this descriptive study, the Center will examine both the extent to which and how research is used in instructional decision making practice in local school districts. In this 18-month comparative case study, four districts will be selected and followed to investigate their decision-making processes. Each district will have different research use characteristics: (1) one will be low on connections to outside sources of research and low on organizational routines and tools that enable research use; (2) the second will be low on connections to outside sources of research and high on organizational routines and tools that enable research use; (3) that the third will be high on connections to outside sources of research and low on organizational routines and tools that enable research use; and (4) is the fourth will be high on connections to outside sources of research and high on organizational routines and tools that enable research use. Data collection will include the survey developed during the Measurement Study as well as interviews with central district office personnel and school level personnel. Additionally, interviews will include questions regarding social networks. The Center will also observe organizational routines that are related to decision-making about mathematics and English language arts.

Study 3: Descriptive Study of Research Use in Research-Practice Partnerships: In this descriptive study, the Center will examine purposeful attempts to increase research use by promoting greater interaction between researchers and practitioners. The Center will use a mixed-method, cross-case design to examine three different types of research-practitioner partnerships: research alliances; design research partnerships; and networked improvement communities. Only partnerships that have been in existence for at least three years by the start of the study will be eligible to participate. Data collection will include interviews with district personnel, observations of meetings, phone interviews with researcher partners, and surveys developed in the Measurement Study.

Leadership and Dissemination Activities: In Year 5, the Center will hold a conference (hosted by the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University) to present findings from the Center's studies and to consider future directions for research. Participant district representatives and participant research-practice partnership representatives will be invited as guests. Throughout the project period, the Center will participate in conferences aimed at both practitioner/policymaker and researcher audiences, including assembling symposia and presentations that include both researchers and district leaders for researcher-focused conferences.

The Center will build a website that targets the needs of district leaders, principals, and researchers. The website will allow for different entry points based on audience. The website will include findings from research presented using practitioner-friendly formats, as well as academic working papers. The website will also include links to published research and a repository of measures developed as part of the study. Finally, the website will include links for novice researchers and graduate students that include readings in the field of research use.

The Center, in cooperation with CEPR, will develop a training module to support the use of research in decision making. The training module will use a case-based approach to teaching based on the findings from the Center's descriptive studies. The training module will also include training in using the measures developed by the Center. CEPR will use the training module for the current and future cohorts of fellows in their Strategic Data Project Fellowship program. The training module will also be available on the Center website.

Key Personnel: William R. Penuel (University of Colorado Boulder), Heather Hill (Harvard Graduate School of Education), Cynthia E. Coburn (Northwestern University), James P. Spillane (Northwestern University), Anna-Ruth Allen (University of Colorado Boulder), Jon Fullerton (Center for Education Policy Research), Derek Briggs (University of Colorado Boulder).

Project Website: http://NCRPP.org


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