Writing for teachers, policymakers, and the media

Research isn’t done until you write it up for a variety of audiences, says Denise McKeon of the National Education Association. She chaired a session about writing for teachers, policymakers, and the media at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association.
Although she was speaking in particular to education researchers, young and senior, much of what she said applies to any communicator in education with a story to tell.
Think of writing for non academic audiences as being bilingual, as being bicultural, she suggests. When you’re communicating with the public, know what each audience needs.
Communicating with multiple audiences requires that you develop the ability to meet your readers in their world.
When researchers write for other researchers, they lay out evidence for their arguments and they set the stage for others to replicate their experiments. They try to answer the question, “If I follow what you did, and the way you reasoned, would I get the same result?” But – and here is a huge issue – that question is not what anyone else in the whole world needs to know.
Classroom teachers will ask, “Can I use this research tomorrow with my students sitting in front of me?”
And that’s not what policymakers ask. They want to know: Does this research work? what is the bottom line?”
Meanwhile, legislators and elected policy makers demand to know: will this research finding prove popular with my constituents? And they might not ask, but they certainly think, “Can I use this information to get re-elected?”
OK. Now throw all that out the window.
If you want to get the attention of reporters, frame your story to answer the question they are sure to ask: “Is this research newsworthy?”

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