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OPINION: When it comes to educational research, getting there is half the battle

January 2, 2018
Christopher T. Cross
The Hechinger Report

If Jane Smith in Arkansas invented a method to ensure the success of rural English language learners, would John Jones in rural Wyoming ever learn about it?

For almost every issue that confronts us about how to improve education, somewhere there is a success story to be told and lessons from which others can benefit. However, there are two problems in need of urgent attention.

First, successful work is rarely documented, evaluated and published — anywhere! That’s why Jones’ students in Wyoming would have little chance of benefiting from Smith’s solution in Arkansas.

Second, we lack a means of assembling the information that does exist in a coherent and accessible fashion.

If we were to make that breakthrough in knowledge, we’d then face the daunting problem of dissemination, getting that information into the hands of practitioners — the millions of professionals who each day confront challenges for which they need knowledge and strategies to help students achieve their full potentials.

Researchers have identified three distinct purposes for dissemination: awareness, understanding and action. In each of these areas different methods can be successful. Most education research fails in all three areas. Unfortunately, what we lack are strategies, methods and resources to achieve these ends.