Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Barriers and Facilitators in Scaling Up Research-Based Practices

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Barriers and Facilitators in Scaling Up Research-Based Practices

Article excerpt

Over the last several years, special education researchers, policymakers, and others have lamented the gap between what we know from research about "what works" and what is actually implemented by teachers in practice (Carnine, 1997; Gersten, Morvant, & Brengelman, 1995; Gersten, Vaughn, Deshler, & Schiller, 1997; Kauffman, 1993; Malouf & Schiller, 1995; National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 1999; Richardson, 1996; Stanovich & Stanovich, 1997). With a heightened focus in the field on trying to bridge this research-to-practice gap, many researchers have experienced more than a modicum of success in facilitating teachers' use of research-based methods (Abbott, Walton, Tapia, & Greenwood, 1999; Fuchs & Fuchs, 1998; Pressley & El-Dinary, 1997; Vaughn, Hughes, Schumm, & Klingner, 1998). We now know more about how to conduct professional development programs that support teachers' sustained implementation of new practices than we did a decade ago. Rather than the "sit and get" standalone workshops more prevalent in the past, successful efforts have focused on providing long-term support and including teachers as collaborators in the process. Teachers are no longer seen as mere "consumers of research findings," but rather now are recognized as "knowledge generators" (Gersten et al., 1997, p. 472). Yet less is known today about how to "scale up" or expand the implementation of research-based practices in order to facilitate widespread change.

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Abbott et al. (1999), Fuchs and Fuchs (1998), Pressley and El-Dinary (1997), and Vaughn, Klingner, and colleagues (Klingner, Arguelles, Hughes, & Vaughn, 20011 Klingner, Vaughn, Hughes, & Arguelles, 19991 Vaughn et al., 1998) have been among the most successful researchers in establishing long-term collaborative partnerships with schools as a way to enhance the sustainability of research-based practices. These partnerships have each included some form of ongoing support from the research team after the initial instruction in research-based practices had taken place. Yet even in these cases not all teachers implemented the practices they had learned. A summary of these projects follows.

Abbott and colleagues (1999) with the Juniper Gardens Children's Project were able to sustain ongoing interactions with teachers by targeting problems relevant to classroom teachers, identifying solutions, and evaluating progress. Yet implementation of their research-based practices differed across their three schools. Two partnerships were successful and one was not. Researchers learned that (a) a partnership cannot develop without strong "grassroots" support from teachers; (b) translating research knowledge into a form that is useful for teachers is a major, time-consuming task; (c) teacher participation needs time to grow; and (d) it is essential to help teachers learn to link changes in practice directly to changes in student performance.

Fuchs and Fuchs (1998) have achieved some success with their Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies. They developed a long-term model that included pilot research, formal evaluation, and scaling up. Teachers were partners throughout this process--they were involved in planning research activities, implementing research-based practices, providing feedback, and problem-solving. Yet formidable challenges arose, such as when the state adopted a high-stakes achievement test and anxiety levels increased, creating a climate that made partnerships more susceptible to misunderstandings and mistrust. Fuchs and Fuchs noted that their partnerships only survived when both sides worked continuously to preserve alliances.

Pressley and El-Dinary (1997) described how they and their colleagues investigated teachers' implementation of reading comprehension strategy instruction over 7 years. They achieved considerable success, but noted many challenges. …

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