How can researchers help other audiences understand and utilize findings?
- Researchers must be prepared to communicate and commit to extensive listening with a variety of constituents in order to ensure that essential points of research are accurately and successfully understood and acted upon by audiences and policymakers outside of the scholarly community, according to speakers during a panel discussion organized by the Aspen Institute.
- The discussion centered around the release of a report on developing students' social, emotional and academic development. In addition to listening to constituents, researchers must be forthcoming about the fact that they don't have all of the answers, according to Maurice Elias, a professor at Rutgers University and the director of that school’s Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab.
- Elias noted researchers should also convey “a sense of optimism,” and help aggrieved educators understand that problems in social-emotional learning are not intractable. Distressing traits and trends in students are challenges which must be overcome, he said, rather than insurmountable issues.
In discussing what kinds of state policies could be beneficial in support of the research into student’s social, emotional and academic development, Stephanie Jones, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the author of the aforementioned report, noted that researchers needed to continue to build an evidence base to draw from to commit to more work on the policy level, saying it is an opportunity of growth that was necessary for the next generation of researchers.
But it is important for researchers (and by extension, research institutions and universities) to be considerate of how their work can be utilized and digested for practical applications. In a subsequent panel discussion, Zoe Stemm-Calderon, the director of education at the Raikes Foundation, detailed some frustrating aspects of her interactions with researchers in her prior work experience as an educator, saying that she was “supposed to read it, understand, and turn into some transformation of practice” on her own, and also said that at times she felt as if she was a “subject” utilized to prove someone else’s theories. Stemm-Calderon’s advice for researchers and philanthropists, though encroached in the context of speaking about social, emotional and academic development, could also be useful for researchers and institutions in the nascent stages of their own work. She asserted the importance of recognizing the pursuit in the field is a “team effort” that is not about individual scholarly achievement.