By John Papay
Ensuring that research crosses the divide to practice has been a long-standing challenge in the academy. There is tremendous value in disseminating research broadly, as highlighted by the Edu-Scholar Rankings. To “move ideas from the pages of barely read journals,” as rankings creator Rick Hess writes, “into the real world of policy and practice” should be a goal of both scholars and educators.
An approach distinct from broad dissemination of research results—but complementary to it—is that of “research-practice partnerships,” where researchers and practitioners enter into collaborations with specific aims. By targeting particular policy dilemmas and providing timely and actionable evidence, such RPPs can influence local decisions directly.
Over the past decade, I have been part of and learned from partnerships with Massachusetts, the Tennessee Education Research Alliance, the Providence public schools/Rhode Island, and a group of teacher-professional-learning organizations (the Research Partnership for Professional Learning or RPPL). All these partnerships were robust—exploring a range of questions, not undertaking just a single study—and sustained over time. They relied on active engagement from policymakers and practitioners and built on some of the best thinking of leaders in this field, such as Nate Schwartz and Carrie Conaway.