Stakeholder engagement, capacity for research, and use of evidence present some of the biggest challenges and greatest opportunities for researchers and practitioners working together. How two REL Northwest research alliances approach these issues will be the focus of a presentation at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) fall conference in Washington, DC, on September 6, 2014.
Michelle Hodara, lead of the Oregon College and Career Readiness (OR CCR) Research Alliance, and Terri Akey, Alaska State Policy Research Alliance (ASPRA) lead, will discuss some of their alliances’ projects and the lessons learned during the past three years. Alliance members Les Morse, Deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, and Hilda Rosselli, College and Career Readiness Director at the Oregon Education Investment Board, will reflect on the work and offer advice from a practitioner’s perspective via prerecorded interviews.
“There are many capacities needed to support alliances conducting research,” Hodara points out. “These range from access to high-quality and credible data to an understanding of and skill in designing studies, conducting analyses, and interpreting findings. A key take-away from our collaboration with our alliances is that success in this area emerges when alliance members can learn to conduct or at least understand the research process themselves.”
Akey adds that “engaging alliance members in vetting, interpreting, and disseminating evidence ensures that findings are policy-relevant and contextualized appropriately. [It] also builds ownership over the research process and the subsequent results from the studies.”
Both Hodara and Akey agree that sustaining alliance members’ authentic engagement and building their commitment to the alliance process can be difficult. Meeting this challenge involves bringing together stakeholders with the same policy priority but different perspectives; creating shared frameworks, definitions, and metrics to help alliances engage in dialogue; and embedding structures in members’ resources and priorities to sustain participation.