In this easter season, thoughts turn to a renewal of learning, a rebirth of education. Just as churches, temples and mosques all over the world turn toward the coming Spring, schools are turning toward new ways to get things done. High schools are thinking about starting later to accommodate student sleep patterns, standardized tests as the only measure of student learning are being cut back and new ways of integrating curriculum to foster greater learning are being tried out.
Perhaps this is just a regular Spring renewal? Perhaps, but the real changes are not in practice so much as in a new perception between research and teacher practice called Research-Practice Partnerships (RRPs). Previously, researchers have worked to improve schools by applying their skill sets to educational settings and reporting their outcomes as if the settings were sterile laboratories. Teacher’s opinions of the work were often reported, but only as data categories, meaning that their opinions were treated as data and not as organizing the direction or the methodology of the research.
These new partnerships are looking to strengthen the researcher-practitioner relationship: to improve the role of the teacher in research decisions, to improve the effect of research on teacher practice, to improve the the focus of research on teacher practice problems, and to provide new ways for teachers and researchers to practice with each other. But, this is a new idea with very little research on RRPs effectiveness. The early claims for this Rebirth of Education need to be researched in a much more rigorous way, before they claim the power of this direction: We need more research on the outcomes, comparative studies, targeted studies of strategies and the political dimensions of the partnerships (Coburn and Penuel, 2016, p.52).
I know that in our work in Rochester, NY, we brought our research-base rigor and partnered with teachers and teaching artists. Our success would not have happened without this strong partnership, where we heard and responded to the strength of teacher practice ideas. From our point of view, this is a very important development and may yet signal a rebirth in the improvement of schools through a new definition of research and practice.
Coburn, C. & Penuel, W. (2016). Research-Practice Partnerships in Education: Outcomes Dynamics and Open Questions. Educational Researcher, Vol. 45 No. 1, pp. 48-54.