Academic journal article Planning and Changing

Educators’ Use of Research and Other Evidence within Local Grant Foundation Applications

Academic journal article Planning and Changing

Educators’ Use of Research and Other Evidence within Local Grant Foundation Applications

Article excerpt

Ideally, educational research and practice would be tightly connected. One would routinely observe effective, context-adjusted implementation of research-informed programs in schools. Meanwhile, practitioners' varied implementation experiences would inform and refine further research. Current reality, however, falls short. The existence of a substantive gap between research and practice in education, due to a mixture of factors, is well-established (Anwaruddin, 2015; Broekkamp & van Hout-Wolters, 2007; Vanderlinde & van Braak, 2010). This unsatisfactory situation requires scholarly focus (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2000, 2007, 2010). It is imperative to better understand the form and nature of educators' research use-in comparison to, or in combination with, the use of other forms of evidence-to inform their practice.

Accordingly, this study is focused upon a set of educators' implied or explicit use of research and/or other forms of evidence to support their decision-making. It does so by analyzing educators' proposals for foundation grant funding toward the purchase of desired educational materials or services. Specifically, I addressed three research questions:

1) To what extent, and in what ways, do educators reference research to support their requests?

2) What other forms and sources of evidence do the educators most frequently rely upon?

3) What knowledge acquisition and decision-making processes are described?

Evidence and Research Use in Education

Several explanations for the educational research/practice gap have been advanced. Among these: constantly-changing goals, standards, and expectations for educators have led many to privilege their own be- liefs over others' (Lortie, 1975); educational research evidence is diffuse, difficult to access, and/or difficult to use (Ball, 2012); educational problems are perceived as too complex for research to satisfactorily address (Guthrie, 2011; Lysenko, Abrami, Bernard, Dagenais, & Janosz, 2014); and the implied superiority of academia over practice deepens researchpractice gaps and impairs relationships (Lysenko et al., 2014).

Related, the use of tacit knowledge to support professional judgment is commonly viewed as inferior to knowledge sources (Hammersley, 2004), when actually it is often optimal (Leonard & Sensiper, 1998). Additionally, tacit knowledge supporting educators' judgments might be shaped by relevant research and/or theory.

In the wider context, the omission or misuse of educational research in the media (e.g., Henig, 2008) may have heightened some educators' questioning about its quality and usefulness. Some individuals, whose backgrounds suggest scant research training and proficiency but who are nonetheless touted as experts, routinely experience more media exposure than others whose records indicate bona fide topical expertise (Malin & Lubienski, 2013, 2015). Well-financed educational interest groups successfully advance their reform agendas, irrespective of their alignment with research evidence (Malin & Lubienski, 2015). The decades-long reading wars (Pearson, 2004) illustrate that educational research-practice translation can be politically fraught.

These factors help to explain many educators' views regarding the utility of research to inform their practices. However, individual educators' viewpoints vary substantially (Lysenko et al., 2014). Research has documented educator attitudes and opinions ranging from mild optimism about using research (Biddle & Saha, 2002; Green & Kvidahl, 1990; Saha, Biddle, & Anderson, 1995; Williams & Coles, 2007), to skepticism (Hultman & Hörberg, 1998; Shkedi, 1998; Vanderlinde & van Braak, 2010; Zeuli & Tiezzi, 1993), to cynicism (Nicholson-Goodman & Garman, 2007). Such differences are likely a product of interactions between individuals' personal predispositions and their (pre-) professional experiences. …

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