Academic journal article School Community Journal

Exploring the Community Impact of Research–Practice Partnerships in Education

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Exploring the Community Impact of Research–Practice Partnerships in Education

Article excerpt

Book Review of Exploring the Community Impact of Research-Practice Partnerships in Education

Traditional research models in which academics on their own identify the primary areas of inquiry, define the methods and measures, and decide which outcomes are important to track and analyze have fallen short in addressing the needs and concerns of teachers, administrators, and other practitioners engaging with students on a day-to-day basis. As a result, there is a growing call for more collaborative and participatory approaches to ensure meaningful research is conducted that promotes equitable educational opportunities and outcomes for all students. Chief among these approaches are research-practice partnerships or RPPs (Coburn, Penuel, & Geil, 2013).

Coburn and colleagues characterize research-practice partnerships as a "long-term, mutualistic collaboration between practitioners and researchers that is intentionally organized to investigate problems of practice and solutions for improving district outcomes" (Coburn et al., 2013, p. 2). Research-practice partnerships are characterized by a sense of "mutualism" and collective ownership and accountability, which enables reforms to take root, sustain, and eventually become standard practice. While partnerships between researchers and practitioners afford a myriad of opportunities, they can also pose a range of challenges such as conflicting organizational norms and values, misaligned expectations and incentives, and a need for ongoing resources to support the evolution and changes inherent in long-term partnerships.

Edited by R. Martin Reardon and Jack Leonard, Exploring the Community Impact of Research-Practice Partnerships in Education is a comprehensive volume comprised of 11 chapters. Penned by authors ranging from higher- education faculty to K-12 practitioners and superintendents, the volume describes emerging and long-established research-practice partnerships across the country, including the enabling and constraining conditions that shape their success.

Reardon and Leonard divide the book into four sections. The first section is comprised of three chapters and highlights research-practice partnerships that are designed to develop learners and educational leaders, particularly those from minority and historically under-represented groups. These opening chapters illustrate the importance of relationship building in research-practice partnerships to cohere collective efforts around a shared aim. These chapters also draw attention to critical organizational factors (e.g., opportunities and scaffolds for productive collaboration, access to different data sources for systemic improvement) that influence whether partnerships are effective in developing the types of leaders able to address complex problems of practice.

Two chapters make up the second section of the volume. They describe larger scale research-practice partnerships that target the "whole child" and involve different stakeholders from various parts of the educational system (e.g., at the state, district, community, and school levels). These research-practice partnerships include the School-University Research Network and University Assisted Community Schools. The authors of these chapters stress the essential role leaders play in the operations and success of research-practice partnerships. They also highlight the need for practitioners and researchers to "see the system," including how interrelated structures, norms, and processes, as well as out-of-school factors (e.g., poverty), interact to shape the learning and healthy development of vulnerable children and youth.

The third section, which is made up of four chapters, focuses on the qualities of place-based, context-specific research-practice partnerships. In this section, readers learn about the iterative nature of research-practice partnerships, including how practitioners bring their knowledge and expertise to bear in how researchers examine their data (e. …

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