Research collaborations can benefit schools, but require careful handling
- Several schools in the Pittsburgh region are partnering with local universities on research projects related to diverse topics, such as developing a curriculum on computational thinking, the creation of “LearnLabs,” the interactions of early-childhood education teachers and students, and diversifying access to universities for students wanting to pursue STEM fields, EdSurge reports.
- Such school-university research partnerships do not always work because educational practitioners and researcher operate differently and view education from different points of view.
- However, these partnerships can be beneficial and successful if several key principles are employed: identifying joint work, creating a boundary spanner, identifying and negotiating the differences in approach; choosing project champions from each organization, aligning core values around the best interest of the students, obtaining foundation support, and embracing flexibility.
School-university partnerships are more common in urban areas where there is a strong higher education community because students and teachers in these communities are always looking for new research projects to pursue and articles to publish. In these cases, universities often reach out to schools with ideas for collaborative projects to research. Universities see this as an opportunity to expand knowledge in the field of education, while schools are usually hoping the research will provide feedback specific to improving their situation. Sometimes, universities look beyond local boundaries, as in the case of a current Stanford University study that is being conducted in rural East North Carolina to study the effects of natural disasters on students. In this case, the university is looking for evidence-based practices on the issue while the school is looking for free data analysis and suggestions for support systems for affected students.
In other cases, schools can reach out to universities with ideas for partnerships because of the need for research and data to help determine the course of school policy. For example, the San Francisco Unified School District partnered with Stanford University to discover whether a proposed ethnics studies course would help reduce the achievement gap and improve graduation rates. School leaders who are interested in pursuing such partnerships will likely have better luck with reaching out to universities within their region that have strong education programs and either exploring whether such opportunities are available or suggesting research studies that would be beneficial to them.
While evidence-based educational research is a key factor in creating education policy and implementing new educational initiatives, schools also need to be aware of the best strategies needed to create successful research partnerships. School leaders also need to be aware, when studying research for other schools, that situations vary greatly and that research-based strategies that work at one school may not work for all.