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IES Grant

Title: The Center for Research Use in Education (CRUE)
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: May, Henry Awardee: University of Delaware
Program: National Research and Development Centers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (8/1/2015-7/31/2020) Award Amount: $4,999,958
Goal: Multiple Goals Award Number: R305C150017

Project Website:

Topic: Knowledge Utilization

Purpose: The Center for Research Use in Education (CRUE) will develop and validate measures to document research use in schools, and will examine the conditions under which research is used and the factors that promote or inhibit research use in schools. CRUE will place a special focus on understanding the social connections between researchers, research brokers (i.e. dissemination outlets, funding organizations, advocacy groups, etc. that serve as intermediaries between the research and practice communities), and practitioners. Specifically, CRUE researchers will strive to understand the strength, interactivity, bidirectionality, and frequency of communication in social connections. In addition, CRUE will engage in leadership and outreach activities that provide information and training on research use to practitioners; teach researchers how to effectively communicate to practitioners; and help to build connections between the two communities.

Research Projects: CRUE is guided by a conceptual framework that focuses on gaps between researcher and practitioner communities in terms of their perspectives on the usefulness of research, nature and quality of research, and problems addressed by research. CRUE hypothesizes that the larger the gap in perspectives between practitioners and the research community, the less likely those practitioners are to engage in deep research use. Deep research use is characterized by a focus on scientific evidence, critical interpretation of research, and regular/institutionalized and universal participation in discussion of research in decision-making processes.

CRUE will undertake three major studies: a measurement study, and two descriptive studies. The measurement study will develop a set of measures to quantify research use in schools; gaps in perceptions of the relevance and value of research; and the strength and interactivity of relationships between researchers, research brokers, and practitioners. The first descriptive study will identify factors that influence schools' depth of research use by examining gaps and connections between research and practice. The second descriptive study will identify researcher practices and malleable factors associated with research use in schools and districts.

Measurement Study: Development of the measures will involve cycles of semi-structured interviews with researchers, brokers, and practitioners, and feedback from an advisory board. In the pilot study, the research team will test the instruments with 150 researchers, 50 brokers, and staff from 30 public schools (including approximately 30 principals, 30 assistant principals, 500 teachers, and 30 district staff). The CRUE team will assess validity and reliability of all the surveys. The instruments will include measures of seven constructs:

  1. Researcher/broker production and dissemination activities, including questions about characteristics of the research produced/disseminated, how practitioners can locate publications, technical sophistication of research, and target audience of research;
  2. Practitioner depth of research use, including questions about types of evidence used to inform decision-making, how relevant research is located, how research is evaluated, and regularity of using research in decision-making;
  3. Researcher/broker perspectives and assumptions about research, including questions about types of products produced/disseminated, quality of research produced/disseminated, degree to which products address problems of practice, and how structures and processes may create or constrain opportunities to conduct and disseminate research;
  4. Practitioner perspectives and assumptions about research, including questions about what products are most useful, how quality of research may impact research use, whether research addresses problems of practice, and structures and processes that may create or constrain opportunities to use research;
  5. Researcher/broker reported connections to practitioners, including questions asking for the identification of practitioners with whom they have a relationship, and about frequency and bidirectionality of communication;
  6. Practitioner reported connections to researchers/brokers, including questions asking for the identification of all sources of evidence (e.g. researchers/brokers, colleagues, media), and about the frequency and bidirectionality of communication; and
  7. Practitioner capacity to interpret research, including questions about prior training and self-perceptions of ability to evaluate and critique research with regards to topics such as validity, randomization, and time to locate and read research.

Descriptive Study 1: In order to understand why some schools engage in deep research use while others do not, CRUE will use the surveys developed in the Measurement Study to examine gaps between what researchers believe is important and what practitioners value in research they read and/or use. Additionally, this study will document the connections and relationships between practitioners and researchers/brokers to examine how such connections may aid or hinder research use in schools. The research team will recruit three hundred schools for this study, including approximately 45 participants per school (primarily instructors, but also principals, assistant principals, and district staff), for a total of 13,500 individual participants. Ten schools, identified as engaging in deep use of research, will participate in case studies. Researchers will combine data from this study with data from the second descriptive study for analysis.

Descriptive Study 2: In this descriptive study, CRUE will identify researcher practices that are associated with greater use of research in schools. Researchers and brokers will complete the surveys designed in the Measurement Study in order to understand researcher/broker perspectives on important aspects of research, and on the connections between researchers and schools. Additionally, CRUE hopes to identify researcher/broker practices which may be associated with research use in schools. Three hundred researchers and one hundred brokers will participate in data collection. Fifty researchers and/or brokers who are identified in the surveys as having the deepest connections to practitioners will be analyzed as a subgroup and compared to researchers/brokers who are not identified as having as deep connections with practitioners.

To analyze the data from the two descriptive studies, the CRUE team members will use regression analyses to examine the gaps between what practitioners identify as valuable in research and what researchers identify as important aspects of research. Additionally, social network analysis (SNA) will be used to identify connections between and among researchers, brokers, and practitioners. SNA will be used to examine network size (number of researchers and brokers included for each school), strength (number of individuals in a school with connections to one researcher/broker and frequency of contact with that researcher/broker), and composition (e.g., connections to individual researchers versus organizations). Other sources of information and evidence such as colleagues and the media will also be included in the SNA.

Leadership and Dissemination Activities: CRUE plans to engage in a number of activities to help improve research use in schools. First, they will create and maintain a CRUE website, which will include a blog, and links to papers, tools, and other resources. Second, CRUE team members will use Twitter to develop a network of practitioners and to share research-based information on the problems of practice identified by practitioners in the first descriptive study. Third, CRUE will create a Cross-Community Networking Tool that will include a database of researchers who place high value on scientifically-based research, actively and frequently target dissemination to practitioners, and produce and disseminate research that practitioners find valuable. Practitioners will be able to use the tool to identify and connect with researchers who produce research relevant to their own problems of practice. Fourth, in Years 4 and 5 of the project, CRUE will develop and sponsor pre-sessions and/or in-conference sessions at education research conferences that will focus on strategies to increase research use in schools, including development of researcher-practitioner partnerships; incentives, policies and expectations of research institutions; and effective strategies for communication and dissemination. Finally, CRUE will create professional development units for practitioners on how to use research appropriately and effectively. These materials will be implemented through partnership with national technical assistance centers and through the CRUE website.

Key Personnel: Henry May (University of Delaware), Elizabeth Farley-Ripple (University of Delaware), Rebecca Maynard (University of Pennsylvania), Lynn Okagaki (University of Delaware), Karen Seashore Lewis (University of Minnesota).


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Farley-Ripple, E., May, H., Karpyn, A., Tilley, K., and McDonough, K. (2018). Rethinking Connections Between Research and Practice in Education: A Conceptual Framework. Educational Researcher.