The Road from Research to Practice in Education

Lea(R)n recently visited two historic cities in New England to participate in back-to-back conferences focused on research and practice in education:

Despite the fact that Boston (founded in 1630) and Providence (founded in 1636) are two of the oldest cities in the nation, both New England capitals are the opposite of antiquated when it comes to generating cutting-edge research and practice. Both cities have venerated colleges and universities, rich ecosystems of entrepreneurism, industrious professionals and vibrant cultures that energize innovation. It is in cities like these where the constructive coalescence of research and practice is not only promising, but actually happening. So it was fitting that these two cities hosted back-to-back conferences that gathered leaders from across the country to discuss educational topics that focused on both research and practice.

The first conference, the MIT J-PAL North America Ed-Tech Conference, catered to a research audience. The majority of the conference was spent discussing the current evidence on edtech efficacy, how to conduct rapid trials in education, how rigorous research can improve learning, and how data and evidence can transform education. At Lea(R)n, our team of researchers, data scientists, and statisticians tackle these issues on a daily basis. We have built LearnPlatform with sound research methodology that (a) enables schools and districts to measure and monitor edtech usage and efficacy, (b) conduct rigorous yet practical research in their local contexts, and (c) generate a continuous flow of actionable evidence that informs instructional, operational, and budgetary decisions. We see schools and districts bridge the gap between research and practice by using LearnPlatform to examine their learning ecosystems in a rigorous way that informs real-world decisions in a timely manner.

The second conference, the Blended and Personalized Learning Conference—presented by the Highlander Institute, the Christensen Institute, and the Learning Accelerator—catered to an audience of implementers (e.g., educators and administrators). The majority of this conference was spent highlighting exemplary educational practices and showcasing successful implementations of blended and personalized learning. At Lea(R)n, we have a team dedicated to implementation and customer success, which includes educators, educational doctorates and implementation specialists who have been there and done that. This team knows how to work with partners to maximize the utility of LearnPlatform, and they dedicate their time to ensuring schools and districts are successfully achieving their aspirations of improving the educational process for every educator and student.

Hence, traversing the road from research to practice for me last weekend literally consisted of taking a ride down the road from Boston to Providence. After two days of intense conferencing, several themes materialized.

Evidence is Needed on the Efficacy of EdTech

There is a systemic need for systematic evidence that supports the efficacy of edtech products. More research needs to be conducted that examines the extent to which edtech products have an impact on the educational outcomes they are purported to improve. Further, research needs to be conducted that investigates when, why, and for whom a product works. This research needs to be conducted and disseminated in a way that enables schools and districts to use it to inform practice.

As noted by one of the panelists, most of the research that currently exists on the efficacy of edtech products is only read by academicians and is never actually used to inform real-world decisions. Schools and districts need evidence from their local contexts that is timely, accessible, and consumable. For us to bridge the gap between research and practice, evidence must be collected that is:

  1. Practical: Is this research effort feasible and pragmatic for us to carry out in our school(s)?

  2. Actionable: Will this research generate evidence that can inform important educational decisions related to implementation, operation, and budget?

  3. Rigorous: Is the research designed appropriately, and do the methods support the inferences that we want to make from it?

  4. Relevant: Does the research apply to my situation or to my context, and can it be used to inform matters that I care about?

Educators are Ready and Willing to Utilize Evidence

Schools and districts, and the educators and administrators who work within the walls of these education organizations, are capable of engaging in the research process to make informed decisions. We continue to see the fantastic work that educators are doing when we attend these conferences and engage in stimulating conversations. However, educators have reiterated that schools need the proper resources (e.g., money, tools, and time) to enable them to collect, manage, and utilize evidence. They also need partners who can deliver the results of research and analytics in a way that is both actionable and relevant to their needs.

Lea(R)n is Positioned to Support Schools and Districts

Lea(R)n is comprised of educators, researchers, and technologists who have been working together to build an edtech management platform that helps schools and districts collect, understand, and utilize evidence in their local contexts. The sophisticated analytics engine behind LearnPlatform supports rigorous methodologies that produces practical, actionable, and relevant evidence on edtech usage and impact. LearnPlatform saves schools and districts time and money, and it provides them with tools to measure and manage their edtech portfolio. Thus, it is not surprising that LearnPlatform is helping schools and districts across the nation build capacity to use evidence to inform practice.

The road from research to practice can be an arduous journey, but educators, administrators, schools, and districts are ready and able to conduct, implement, and use research to inform their work. LearnPlatform provides the resources needed to facilitate the work schools and districts are doing to collect, manage, and use evidence to inform educational decisions and thereby bridge the gap between research and practice.

Dr. Daniel Stanhope