Types of research

After doing an in-depth study of three SEAs located in different regions of the country and varying in size, organizational structure, and school improvement strategies, the CPRE separated research into four types:

  1. Research-based knowledge: Research findings that provide empirical or theoretical insights.
  2. Designed for use in practice: Models, programs, protocol, or other tools that embed research or research-based practices in guides to action.
  3. Evidence-based knowledge: Data, facts, and other information relevant to the problem of school improvement, such as formative feedback loops on implementation.
  4. Practitioner knowledge: The information, beliefs, and understanding of context that practitioners acquire through experience, along with research in their decision-making processes.

The study found that SEAs mainly use evidence-based and practitioner knowledge for their research, which the study notes are good options, because research-based knowledge is not sufficient to meet the needs of professionals using it.

“Integrating contextual, local, and practitioner knowledge with research knowledge is critical to developing ‘useable’ knowledge to guide action,” the report emphasizes.

SEA leaders in charge of finding and incorporating research into state education policy used “local practitioner feedback, state professionals’ experience, and external partners’ knowledge of relevant research to contextualize various research findings in light of their states’ school improvement needs,” according to the report.

SEA leaders also worked collaboratively to adapt research to address particular problems and, in some cases, to co-construct new useable knowledge for guiding action.

For example, one SEA used the Center on Innovation and Improvement’s (CII) Handbook on Restructuring and Substantial School Improvement when redesigning its school improvement plans. The SEA took a proactive stance with CII to recreate its checklist of indicators for schools, districts, and teachers to identify areas for improvement, into a format more tailored and relevant to the SEA’s individual needs.

(Next page: Where does the research come from?)