This post is written by Lessita Villa and Laurie Camposeco. We are both Teaching & Learning Specialists with the Sanford Inspire Program at Arizona State University.
It was so refreshing to read an article about teacher practice that didn’t focus on a STEM topic or accountability but honed in on an often overlooked element. Three Ways to Help Teachers Use Research does an excellent job of proposing three plausible options to address the very real research to practice gap. All proposed options can lead to developing the mindsets and a culture necessary for research to play a more pivotal role in the practioner-side of education.
One thing that is consistently overlooked as many educators and researchers attempt to resolve the research to practice gap is teacher access to scholarly journals. Unfortunately for many teachers, journal costs and memberships aren’t free. And as many of us can attest, living off of a teacher salary, free is the preferred price for everything.
Beyond the difficulties of physically accessing the research in scholarly journals, teachers face another issue of access by interpreting the content within the articles themselves. As teachers, we (typically) aren’t versed in the importance of p values, statistical significance, or aligned research methodologies. Even translating the findings to our local context and classrooms can be difficult. Elements incorporated into the design of a research study may not be within sphere of influence or even plausible due to lack of financial, human, or time resources.
One of the great joys that Laurie and I have in our current work is helping teachers overcome some of these obstacles that arise due to the research to practice gap. We work at a Research One institution designing free, research-based, online professional development for K-12 educators. As such, we get to spend much of our time reviewing current and relevant research literature that informs the objectives and resources connected to online professional development modules. Specifically, each module on average references ten to fifteen (if not more) scholarly books and peer reviewed articles.
When we began our work with the Sanford Inspire Program, it wasn’t our intention to address or help bridge the research to practice gap. All we wanted to do was help prepare and support inspirational teachers with informed professional development. Informed, to us, meant spending significant time in the research literature and synthesizing that information for these professional development modules.
It has been a delight to see how our work does help bridge the research to practice gap. Every time we read a research article and synthesize the content into practical processes or tools, we save teachers, principals, and even districts the many hours and large costs it would’ve taken for them do the same thing.
Aubrey and Kelsey’s article describes important and helpful steps to bridge the research to practice gap through developing teacher research skills. We’ve found our role in bridging the gap just as important because it helps overcome persistent barriers many teachers still face: access, money, and time.