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The Regional Educational Laboratory Program: Training, Coaching, and Technical Support

The role of the RELs is to provide support for state and local education agencies, as well as other education stakeholders, in its region to improve their capacity to use research evidence to inform education decision making beyond what would be possible without this support. RELs work to improve the way states, districts, and other education stakeholders approach problems of practice, build skills, and increase knowledge through research evidence. In the context of the REL program, building capacity can be conceptualized as having three dimensions:

Building individual capacity. Staff members at state and local education organizations as well as other education stakeholders bring varying levels of experience, knowledge, and skills to education decision making. A critical role of the REL is to further enhance existing human capital in these agencies, building from whatever the starting point is among agency partners. The logic of the REL program is that state and local education agency staff and other education stakeholders who are better able to access, understand, interpret, critique, generate, and apply data and research are essential to education improvement.

Building organizational capacity. State and local education agencies as well as other education stakeholders are complex systems with their own organizational routines and technical solutions. Building organizational capacity to use research may involve work such as development of tools, routines for collecting and analyzing data to answer research questions, and models for regularly evaluating the effects of policies and practices.

Building education research sector capacity. In the process of building individual and organizational capacity as described above, the REL can build the capacity of the education research sector by modeling reciprocal and productive researcher-practitioner partnerships; contributing to denser and more cost-effective dissemination networks, by co-sponsoring learning opportunities with professional organizations and other federally-funded entities; and modeling and advancing the effective communication of research findings.

The RELs do this work through training, coaching, and technical support (TCTS) for research use. A wide variety of activities fall under this area of work. These activities imply extensive, ongoing, or customized support to meet the needs of particular stakeholders. Examples include but are not limited to: in-person or virtual workshops or training; in-depth coaching; acting as a thought partner when considering or evaluating a program or initiative; reviewing existing research studies to support states in selecting interventions as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act; and developing new data collection or analysis tools.