A Vision for the Future of Education Research

A Vision for the Future of Education Research

SpencerWhat does it mean to conduct education research in today’s unique political and social environment, in which the United States faces rising inequality?

 Na’ilah Suad Nasir, president of the Spencer Foundation, shared her vision for the future of education research in a special lecture hosted by Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR) and School of Education and Social Policy (SESP).

“Education research is a way to play a part in creating what we have not yet accomplished as a nation: schools that support all students and provide a mechanism for social mobility,” said Nasir, who recently took the helm at Spencer.

During the lecture, Nasir outlined her “lofty goals” for the field, explaining that education research is at a critical moment: Schools of education are increasingly disrespected sources of training and knowledge, and their research is viewed as inaccessible and disconnected. However, schools are one of the few social institutions that can provide a mechanism for social mobility, Nasir said.

“My relationship with research has always fundamentally been about research as a tool for positive change in a desperate and at times hopelessly unjust world, as a tool of empowerment, and as a tool of social change," Nasir said. "Not for the sake of change itself, but for the sake of better educating more of the nation’s and the world’s young people."

Education researchers should work to make high-quality, transformative education more readily available for students from pre-kindergarten through college Nasir said. This requires believing that education research can have a broad impact on the world.

It also requires certain types of research, including investment in the “big ideas," and developing lenses and concepts to understand educational and learning processes in new ways, Nasir said.

Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd, Nasir called for work that is “deeply relevant” to the big challenges of education, highlighting issues with school and neighborhood segregation, recruiting and training teachers, and the criminalization of vulnerable student populations.  

This work also needs to move beyond identifying the challenges to moving toward solutions. Community-engaged research could help, Nasir added.

“We need to do work alongside the folks who will be subject to the impact of our research,” she said. 

Read the full story on the IPR website. 

By Institute for Policy Research
Last Modified: 1/9/18