Research Syntheses: Implications for Research and Practice
Ellen P. Schiller Abt Associates Inc.
David B. Malouf U.S. Department of Education
Until the start of the 20th century, all humanity had a disability. We were unable to fly. And people experimented with ways to overcome this disability. Leonardo DaVinci experimented with drawing designs for flying machines in the early 16th century. It was a dream to defy gravity, but even then the basic theory and research into aerodynamics had begun. For centuries it remained in the idea stage. But finally, in the 19th century, inventors began tinkering with DaVinci's basic designs and concepts, and conducting experiments that added to man's knowledge about the principles necessary for flight. Eventually this accumulation of knowledge gleaned from research--and paired with practical attempts to make it work--led to the invention of a machine in 1903 by the Wright brothers that actually could fly.
The research into the development of airplanes started with the insight and vision of one thinker, was developed further by a growing body of scientific research, was made real through experimentation, and finally turned into a workable product that continues to be refined and perfected.
Research in special education has followed a similar course. The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education, has supported a research and dissemination agenda designed to promote the use of research knowledge in special education. This chapter discusses reasons why research knowledge tends to be underused in educational policy and practice, and suggests how research syntheses may contribute to improving the use of research knowledge. The chapter also discusses