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Introducing the Midwest Alliance to Improve Knowledge Utilization

Introducing Alliance to Improve Knowledge Utilization

By Meredith Lukow
March 22, 2018

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) calls on practitioners and policymakers in education to use rigorous evidence when deciding how to invest their resources. As a result, many education stakeholders across the Midwest are grappling with how to effectively increase the uptake of research results among state and local education agency staff. Enter REL Midwest’s newest partnership: the Midwest Alliance to Improve Knowledge Utilization (MAIKU, which rhymes with “haiku”).

REL Midwest saw an opening to employ our content expertise and research alliance structure—which brings together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners from a variety of education stakeholders in long-term partnerships to tackle regional education priorities—to help meet the region’s need for more research and technical assistance around knowledge utilization. MAIKU partnership lead and REL Midwest researcher Jill Bowdon says, “REL Midwest is excited to be working in partnership with regional stakeholders to learn more about how to help practitioners access and use research and evidence.”

MAIKU’s work has kicked off with three training, coaching, and technical assistance projects that aim to help state education agency staff in Ohio and Wisconsin integrate research and evidence into their work.

Evidence-based intervention coaching

Among the changes under ESSA, districts now have more responsibility in selecting evidence-based interventions to help low-performing schools improve. But how will districts know which programs meet ESSA evidence standards? With help from researchers at REL Midwest, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is working to fill this knowledge gap by creating tools to help districts identify evidence-based interventions. REL Midwest is providing coaching to ODE staff and developed a crosswalk that allows practitioners and policymakers to determine the ESSA tier of evidence achieved by an intervention if it meets a particular research clearinghouse’s evidence standard.

Research methods training

REL Midwest is leading a six-part training series for staff at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to increase their capacity to use data and apply research. The sessions focus on best practices for collecting, using, and sharing data, including the fundamentals of research and evidence; the use and development of data collection methods, including surveys, focus groups, and rubrics; basic statistics; and communication of research findings. Participants come from a variety of divisions across the department, and the workshop content is developed in collaboration with DPI staff to ensure that the presentations and activities relate to their work. To learn more, check out the agendas, presentation slides, and activity handouts from the first three workshops: overview, surveys, and interviews and focus groups.

Developing a teacher exit survey

As part of its work to understand teacher mobility and improve teacher retention, ODE wants to provide districts with an instrument to collect data from teachers who are leaving their teaching positions. REL Midwest will conduct a workshop for ODE staff to help them launch the survey project. The workshop will cover clarifying the project’s goals, creating a timeline for survey development, and beginning to define the survey content and administration guidance. Stay tuned for the workshop agenda, presentation slides, and handouts—including a survey-planning Gantt chart—which will be published after the session.

Looking forward

As MAIKU’s activities get under way, the alliance members will convene to discuss available research on knowledge utilization. These conversations will help to inform and prioritize the alliance’s future projects. Ultimately, REL Midwest hopes that MAIKU’s tools and trainings can help other partners in the region. Bowdon is excited to see where this work will lead. “Ideally, we would love for this alliance to change the way that researchers and practitioners in our region think about accessing and disseminating research,” she says.

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Author(s) Information

Meredith Lukow Picture

Meredith Lukow

Communications Associate | REL Midwest


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