Cynthia Coburn Discusses Research-Practice Partnerships at Youth Policy Forum

Cynthia Coburn Discusses Research-Practice Partnerships at Youth Policy Forum

What is the best way for researchers and educators to work together effectively to make sure research informs practice? Professor Cynthia Coburn discussed research-practice partnerships during an American Youth Policy Forum webinar entitled “Research, Policy and Practice: The Role of Intermediaries in Promoting Evidence-Based Decisions” on December 5. 

“There has been a persistent concern among funders, policy makers and researchers that educational leaders do not use research to inform their educational improvement efforts,” Coburn noted in her talk. Reasons are that the research may not be credible, focused on current problems or useful. In addition, schools may lack the resources to enact policies.

In response, a new type of partnership is developing. “Research-practice partnerships are long-term collaborations between practitioners and researchers that are organized to investigate the district’s pressing needs and identify solutions for improving district outcomes,” Coburn explained. She says these partnerships increase relevance, credibility and usability, as well as bring more expertise to district decision making and increase capacity to use research.

Coburn is a co-author of “Research-Practice Partnerships: A Strategy for Leveraging Research for Educational Improvement in School Districts,” a policy paper for the W.T. Grant Foundation. For this paper written with Bill Penuel and Kimberly Geil, Coburn reviewed research related to research-practice partnerships, interviewed key leaders, and conducted case studies of key partnerships.

The researchers found that core features of effective research-practice partnerships are that they are focused on problems of practice, long-term, mutualistic, involved in production of original research, and carefully structured and organized. She provided numerous examples of various types of partnerships, including research alliances, design research partnerships and network improvement communities.

Coburn is a professor at the School of Education and Social Policy in both the Learning Sciences and Human Development and Social Policy programs. She studies the relationship between instructional policy and teachers' classroom practices in urban schools. Coburn has a PhD in education from Stanford University, and in 2011 she received an Early Career Award from the American Education Research Association for a distinguished portfolio of cumulative research within the first decade of her career.

In the December 5 webinar, Coburn joined Phil Bell, professor and director of the Institute for Science and Math Education at the University of Washington and Amy Gerstein, executive director of the John W. Gardner Center for Youth at Stanford University. 

By American Youth Policy Forum
Last Modified: 1/9/14