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Scientific Research in Education
among researchers, practitioners, and policy makers. A second phase of this Strategic Education Research Partnership is currently focused on how to take this idea and build a place—and the enabling strategies, incentives, and infrastructure—to allow these partnerships to flourish. The second, a report of the National Academy of Education (1999), made a similar argument that the prevailing model of research implementation—moving from basic research to development to large-scale implementation of programs—is based on simplistic assumptions about the nature of education and education research. The report concluded that a more productive perspective would view research production and research understanding as part of the same process, also suggesting the need for better partnerships between researchers and educators. Both reports, therefore, simultaneously urge the supply of, and the demand for, education research.
Although the critical issue of research utilization is beyond the scope of the committee’s charge (although we do believe that more research on the topic is very much needed), we focus here on the benefits to scientific inquiry that these collaborative models envision. We suggest that a federal education research agency invest in an infrastructure that builds connections between researchers and practitioners because we see the potential to enhance the research itself. Sustained collaborations between researchers and practitioners could strengthen field-based scientific education research by incrementally infusing a deeper knowledge of the complexities of educational practice into theory building, empirical testing, and methods development in a number of ways. First, situating the research in the messiness of day-to-day educational environments would enable closer attention to context, which we argue is essential to recognize and treat in scientific research. This infrastructure would also establish mutual trust and working relationships that could offer long-term, facilitated access to research participants and sites, and so protect against research being abandoned (as we describe in Chapter 4) when the dynamic conditions surrounding education inevitably shift (e.g., changes in school leadership). Furthermore, strategically and appropriately engaging the knowledge of practitioners’ craft throughout the research process can provide relevant insights that otherwise might be missed.