The Role of Research in Educational Improvement

John D. Bransford, Deborah J. Stipek, Nancy J. Vye, Louis M. Gomez, and Diana Lam, eds.
Harvard Education Press
February 2009

It's the age-old quandary of education research: how can interested parties connect high-level, oft-technical, and frequently dense academic research to the everyday work of teachers and schools?  This book is dedicated to understanding the relationship between education research and classroom practices, both in terms of how the two cultures communicate and the methodological and content issues faced by research. To segue from research to classroom and back, authors explore the roles of grant makers, state policymakers, school district administrators, and non-profit and for-profit education support organizations. Although each of these entities is important to disseminating and informing research, they rarely work together. What to do? Perhaps take a lesson from Japan, a country that apparently has done better at integrating research and practice. In a chapter about the Land of the Rising Sun, author Hidenori Fujita explores the mechanisms that allow research and teacher training to interact. It seems that closer relationships among the central government, education scholars, and classroom teachers allow for more fluid interaction between them and for "Japan [to] maintain an effective education system that functions as a learning organization." But the Japanese case may be inspiring in more than one way. Not only do practitioners and researchers communicate along well-oiled channels, but educational research in Japan is governed by a set of strict methodological protocols that standardize and perhaps improve its quality. U.S. education research has no such guidelines and is plagued by both haphazard design and issues of communication. But though Japan is enlightening, this book has few ideas to turn its own evidence into practice. Still, you can purchase it here.

Christina Hentges is a Author at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute