Meta-Study of the Relationship Between Research and Practice

LPC Faculty: Mary Kay Stein
Funding Agencies: Spencer Foundation & John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The goal of the Meta-Study is to analyze existing efforts to improve education and to promote practices that are informed by systematic evidence. More specifically, it seeks to study “break-the-mold” projects that demonstrate how knowledge derived from a rigorous research base and/or effective practice can be made useful and usable to practitioners engaged in educational improvement efforts.

Working from a provisional typology of classes of promising and diverse ways to reconfigure the relationship between research and practice, the Meta-Study will carry out a strategically chosen set of case studies of innovative projects. These studies will:

  • Identify and articulate the diversity of ways in which researchers and practitioners organize their work to create useful and usable knowledge;
  • Identify the knowledge bases that researchers, practitioners, and others pull from and contribute to as they jointly engage in the work of educational improvement;
  • Identify and seek to understand the manner in which their school improvement efforts cumulate into advances in research and practice wisdom that are shareable beyond their immediate projects;
  • Analyze how the social and political contexts of both research and practice enables and constrains projects’ efforts to work in strategic ways to improve schools.

This study will move the quest for useful and usable knowledge forward in three important ways: First, by uncovering and making public new ways of doing research, we expect to be able to contribute to their further development and improvement, as well as to make them learnable by others. Second, by analyzing and articulating the mechanisms by which these projects contribute to improvement, we expect to build on and extend conceptual understanding of the relationship between research and practice. Finally, by drawing on our findings, we expect to be able to make recommendations for specific changes in research and funding policy.

Thus far, our work has yielded publications in regard to how districts use evidence (Coburn, Honig, Stein in press) and methods of building bridges between educational research and practice (Coburn and Stein forthcoming; Stein and Coburn 2003).