1. Bronwyn Bevan
  2. Senior Research Scientist
  4. University of Washington, University of Colorado Boulder, Education Development Center
  1. Philip Bell
  2. https://education.uw.edu/people/faculty/pbell
  3. Professor, Principal Investigator
  5. University of Washington, UW Institute for Science & Math Education
  1. Pam Buffington
  2. http://ltd.edc.org/people/pam-buffington
  3. Co-Director, Principal Investigator
  5. Education Development Center
  1. William Penuel
  2. http://www.colorado.edu/education/william-penuel
  3. Professor, Principal Investigator
  5. University of Colorado Boulder

Research + Practice Collaboratory

NSF Awards: 1238253, 1626365

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Informal / multi-age

There’s a need for new models and approaches to research that can support sustained improvements in education. Too often, positive effects of research interventions drop off shortly after the studies end. Too often, research is conceived, designed, and implemented without the active participation of the educators and education leaders whose deep knowledge of local contexts, audiences, opportunities, and barriers are crucial to the viability and durability of improvement efforts.

The Research + Practice Collaboratory is investigating new ways to bridge research and practice to advance equity in STEM education. Our approach begins with creating more equitable, and therefore more ethical, relationships between STEM education researchers and educators in which the voices and experiences of each are leveraged to identify pressing problems of practice and develop new questions, strategies, and solutions that can endure in the complex, dynamic contexts of K-12 education.

We work at three levels: First, we develop the evidence base for the efficacy of research-practice partnerships in producing relevant, usable, and sustainable results. Our studies span science in urban districts, math in rural districts, and engineering/making in afterschool. Second, through these partnerships, we develop develop an array of evidence-based tools – both for supporting STEM improvement and for developing productive partnerships. Finally, we engage researchers and educators in joint dialogues around key issues of practice (e.g., ESSA implementation, STEM afterschool professional development, or NGSS-aligned formative assessments) to hear and learn from one another and together identify new directions, needs, and solutions that can advance equity in K-12 STEM education.

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Original Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    May 15, 2017 | 09:46 p.m.

    I applaud this intentional convergence between research and practice! Indeed, far too often, the wisdom of practice from educators is forgone in light of what social science researchers espouse from “on-high,” and while potentially meaningful, without the input from teachers, the research may fail to make any meaningful impact on those it is intended to serve! I appreciate this video and project shifting the effort from a doctor-patient relationship, where interventions/treatments are administered on a patient to a more collegial model that has like-minded colleagues working together on solving meaningful challenges and generated co-developed solutions to improve locally germane problems!


    I do have a couple questions that arose after reading the synopsis and viewing the video:


    --As you develop protocols and processes for forging meaningful partnerships that endure in the complex and dynamic environment of k12 education, do they translate across what appears at the outset to be three very different learning environments: a) urban science, b) rural mathematics, and c) informal engineering/maker spaces after school?


    --As you develop an evidence base for efficacy of these research-practice partnerships might you share an example or two of a particular piece of evidence that produces relevant, usable and sustainable results?


    --Might you share or highlight one or two of what you feel are your most successful tools--and why you feel they are so? Do these tools translate across the three varied collaborator contexts posed in question one? I’m not assuming these tools need to be “transferable” across these three different educational/learning contexts, and welcome you highlighting one for each ed environment (urban, rural, informal), if better informing our audience reviewing this project online for their own unique needs/context!


    --Engaging researchers in collaboration with educators I suspect is extremely powerful! I’m reminded of the principle of reciprocity from Richard Elmore in his book by Harvard Education Press, titled School Reform from the Inside Out: Policy, Practice and Performance (2004), where he posited that we can ask what we may of our educators, but we should not do so with reciprocating and engaging/empowering teachers to be successful in what we are asking from them! We should provide support, professional learning, and external expertise if beyond their existing capabilities, working side-by-side with them on improving the learning environment. This said, sometimes the dialog from researchers is so easily misperceived from educators, or accidentally stifled given “the Ph.D.” is in the room, even if this is not the intent of the researcher working within a school. How do you break these barriers down as your efforts goes to scale hopefully beyond the life of the NSF grant, ensuring consistency with your “team” or those representing your “collaboratory”?

  • Icon for: Anne Gold

    Anne Gold

    May 16, 2017 | 01:00 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing this innovative project. I do work with rural communities and after-school programs and I am very interested to learn if you already have some findings, best practices or tools to share to support both researchers and educators in working together on increasing participation in STEM in your distinct populations. What would be the most important advice you have for someone implementing an educational research project in rural communities as an after-school program? And/or can you point me to some of your tools? 

  • Icon for: Jo Louie

    Jo Louie

    Research Scientist
    May 20, 2017 | 12:03 a.m.

    Thanks so much, Anne, for your interest in our work and for your questions. I’m writing as a member of the EDC team that developed a research-practice partnership in Auburn, Maine as part of the Research + Practice Collaboratory.


    Although our work has focused on mathematics learning in formal school settings, we think the resources that we are developing, and the classroom strategies with technology that our partnership has explored, may be useful in multiple settings (including after-school programs). In our work in Maine, we collaborated with teachers and administrators to harness the rich technology that they had in their classrooms to improve mathematics learning in grades K-2. The schools had implemented a one-to-one mobile device initiative in those grades in 2011. Teachers wanted support to learn how to use the devices more effectively for mathematics learning with their students. Researchers at EDC and university faculty at two Maine universities formed a research-practice partnership with the district to learn about and test digital classroom learning strategies together.


    Based on teachers’ needs and interests, our partnership ended up iteratively exploring the student use of screencasting tools on iPad devices to promote mathematical discourse in the classroom. Our website (see http://interactivestem.org/) contains some of the professional learning resources that our partnership developed to support the work in Maine. Check out our site – we’ll be adding more resources in the upcoming year!

  • Icon for: Lynn Goldsmith

    Lynn Goldsmith

    May 16, 2017 | 09:26 a.m.

    Thanks for this overview of the R+P Collaboratory, and for emphasizing the importance of developing more equitable relationships between researchers and educators in order to investigate questions of import to the world practice and not just the world of academia.

    Can you tell us more about some of the ways that partnerships are established and maintained? For example, in your work, how did researchers and educators initially connect with each other? What kinds of front end work is needed to develop both the interpersonal relationships and the shared commitment to a research/development agenda that will address key issues of practice?

    Anne and Al also raise the question of tools, which you note are available on the R+P website: http://researchandpractice.org/resources/

    I, too, would be interested in hearing about whether you have information regarding the (kinds of) tools that are particularly useful for supporting productive partnerships. I'm also curious about whether students sometimes serve partnership roles, and what your work might be revealing about the nature of partnerships themselves. 


  • Icon for: Bronwyn Bevan

    Bronwyn Bevan

    Lead Presenter
    Senior Research Scientist
    May 16, 2017 | 01:25 p.m.

    Hello Al, Anne, and Lynn,


    Thanks for these comments and questions!  We have co-developed, and tested within our RPPs, a set of tools for maintaining partnerships, which can be found here: http://researchandpractice.org/toolkit.

    We have also begun to parse out the different points of entry for people interested in RPPs, which sometimes involve different tools to even begin conversations about forming a partnership, which can be found here:  http://researchandpractice.org/gettingstarted.

    We have years of detailed accounts of the partnerships, describing the processes, emerging outcomes, etc. Which can be found here: http://researchandpractice.org/latest, and we are in the process (this year) of starting to synthesize results across the RPPs to get at common (and divergent) issues, dimensions, and challenges across the different contexts.  When we began this project, using design-based research approaches, we developed a set of design conjectures that have been guiding our work.  These include conjectures about the conditions in which RPPs are effective, key strategies for developing them, and outcomes.  Along the way we have been collecting data related to these conjectures so that we can do the synthesis work.  I will ask some of my other colleagues to respond with additional insights, including specifics about rural contexts.

    Bronwyn Bevan



    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Albert Byers
    Chris Thorn
  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    May 16, 2017 | 08:26 p.m.


    Thank you for such a prompt reply and providing the URLS for us...and those that might like to dig deeper and gain more insight! It sounds very exciting to see what common and divergent issues, dimensions and challenges will arise across these different contexts...Exciting!

  • May 17, 2017 | 12:47 p.m.

    This is such a fabulous effort, Bronwyn and team!
    We at SRI have recently started working with some districts around their implementation and expansion of CS education. Each year we work with them to identify what data and research they need our help with in order to inform scale-up - district supports, teacher preparation, and student attitudes/learning being among the key issues. I would love to learn more from your toolkit in order to keep the equity focus front and center (which is hugely important for the districts in CSForAll)..
    Thanks for your good work!

  • Icon for: Michelle Choi

    Michelle Choi

    Project Director
    May 19, 2017 | 09:50 p.m.

    Thanks for your comment and for your work with CSforAll! We hosted a couple workshop earlier this year on developing research-practice partnerships for CS education. You might be interested in checking out our workshop resources at researchandpractice.org/csforall.

  • May 17, 2017 | 08:36 p.m.

    Hi, Ann and readers,

     I am glad to see the Research and Practice Collaboratory's video here as a video presentation! Their STEM tool kit is mentioned and I've found it a great assisting element for teachers to identify with and explore from this site based materials-


    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Abby Rhinehart
  • Icon for: Michelle Choi

    Michelle Choi

    Project Director
    May 19, 2017 | 03:52 p.m.

    Thanks for the comment, Betsy! I'm glad to hear the STEM Teaching Tools have been useful for you.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Abby Rhinehart
  • May 21, 2017 | 07:57 a.m.

    It's a great discussion development tool to start projects as it helps us to look at how and at what point they should share projects.  This may sound obvious, however teachers have a classroom sense of unit, term and grade span that structures their work.  Getting them to think beyond data to envision broader elements of project success to communicate is difficult.  Thanks for keeping the tools fresh and easy to access.

  • Icon for: Deborah Hanuscin

    Deborah Hanuscin

    May 18, 2017 | 09:34 a.m.

    What a great project that is producing useful tools and resources! Do you have a sense of how many folks are using them? (e.g, are you tracking access to / downloads from your site?)

  • Icon for: Michelle Choi

    Michelle Choi

    Project Director
    May 19, 2017 | 03:42 p.m.

    Great question and thanks for your comment! We have a team of communications specialists that monitor our website and tools usage. Our partners at SRI also track downloads as part of their external evaluation. To date, the researchandpractice.org website has had over 100,000 views from 24,000+ users and some of our most popular resources include this tool on good anchor phenomenon and our handout on building equity.

  • Icon for: Abby Rhinehart

    Abby Rhinehart

    Communications Specialist
    May 19, 2017 | 07:08 p.m.

    Thanks Michelle! I'll add to that -- the Research + Practice Collaboratory tools and resources are all centrally housed on researchandpractice.org, but they're also on several other sites. Specifically, one major project that came out of the Research + Practice Collaboratory work is STEM Teaching Tools, which focuses on creating practice briefs for educators. That website was launched in late summer 2014 and has had more than 380,000 page views to date, more than 100,000 downloads, and handed out thousands of copies in person at PD sessions, workshops, and conferences. (We're using Google Analytics to track all that.)

    We're up to 49 practice briefs on that site, plus several PD units. Overall, we're pretty exited about it :)

  • Icon for: William Penuel

    William Penuel

    May 21, 2017 | 11:11 p.m.

    And another sister site to the Collaboratory is LearnDBIR, which includes a number of resources related specifically to conducting research in partnerships. 

    Design-Based Implementation Research (or DBIR) is an approach to research and development in which the focus is on collaborative design, testing, and implementation of solutions to persistent problems of practice.

  • May 18, 2017 | 09:40 a.m.


      Thank you for the additional links. I especially found the reinforcement of toolkit materials by your project critically important. Enjoyed the language level as well as the emotional needs between groups..." Celebrate successes. Socialize, socialize, socialize. Proactively manage uncertainties, anxieties, and conflicts that arise."  (from Operating Principles for Building Sustainable Partnerships.)  We often need to be given permission by someone to ensure that the communication is as sustained as the activities.

    Also giving processes that I've found successful new, more defining labels like "Value Mapping" is extremely helpful out in the field!   What is next for your toolkit series?   Would love to see someone study how the sharing of data can build long term collaborations!  


  • Icon for: Bronwyn Bevan

    Bronwyn Bevan

    Lead Presenter
    Senior Research Scientist
    May 19, 2017 | 12:39 p.m.

    Hi Betsy,

    We have documented the production of the tools, and our external evaluators at SRI are tracking downloads and uses (through web analytics as well as user interviews) of them by the broader field, but yes a more systematic study of how it has been used as a "kit" could be valuable.  Thanks for commenting on this!


  • May 21, 2017 | 11:18 a.m.


     Thank you for considering the view of the STEM project manager’s task.  We both follow learned processes for summarizing a project and encourage extensions to “scale up” to address identified needs. Using the technology that we are building into the project for more research options can be ahead of where the actual projects are in their process of STEM development.   Easily missed in summarizing expectations are the elements that are indicators of change that  may only be notice later as we review with 20/20 hindsight.  Great to have this opportunity to discuss your work and progress

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.

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