A continuing challenge for any research organization is to strengthen the ties between research and practice.
In a 2006 article in the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education*, the NCTM Research Committee proposes that the need for improvement is two-way. The practice of classroom teaching needs to be better informed by an understanding of research, and researchers need to learn more from the insights and knowledge of teachers.
Efforts to make teaching more research-based are slowed by two challenges, the authors say:
1. translating research results into practical advice that can be implemented in today’s classrooms, and
2. targeting research to questions that are important to teachers.
Some journals aim at researchers; others aim at teachers. But in the case of mathematics education, at least, no journal focuses on providing syntheses of direct responses to teacher-generated questions of general importance. So teachers have no direct resource for research-based responses to their immediate questions.
In addition, many classroom teachers have little time for, or experience in, reading and interpreting research, and then translating those findings into practice. Teachers’ day-to-day priorities are often determined externally and politically, and their day-to-day priorities don’t always coincide with the long-term programmatic interests of the professional researcher.
And the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of classroom teachers are often untapped in research projects that could benefit from that perspective. The result is a bi-directional disconnect.
The article proposes that teachers and researchers collaborate in two ways:
1. develop researchable, generalizeable, and useable research questions.
2. communicate the research results in teacher-friendly ways.
The person best able to broker communication would be a practitioner with a working knowledge of both research and teaching, for example ‘instructional engineers’ or teacher leaders, who take the theory and results of research and design practical ways for them to inform classroom teaching.
Teacher-leaders may be teacher educators, professional developers, a school district’s content area supervisors, school department heads, or classroom teachers—anyone with the experience and knowledge needed to put research results into operation.
The authors encourage researchers to seek out more practitioners whom they can engage in collaborative and meaningful research on questions of mutual interest. Meanwhile, researchers need more support in their efforts to conduct school-based research. They often face regulations and funding priorities that restrict or discourage research in schools.
* Source: “The Challenge of Linking Research and Practice.” NCTM Research Committee. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education. 2006, Vol. 37 No. 2