Communicating education research

Over the years I’ve fielded calls from Frank Schultz, an education reporter for the Janesville (Wis.) Gazette. “Paul, I’m working on a story about (_____). What does education research say about it?”  Frank is good at providing feedback on articles I publish in a quarterly newsletter too. He recently reacted to a story about assessment practices in Wisconsin schools, and ended with this observation:

“. . . In any case, the article makes some sense to me because I have heard similar talk from some edu-doctors around here. Maybe someone should research how to communicate education concepts with the public.”

Frank makes a very good point. There is a lot of room for improvement.  Researchers often seem to live on a different planet from classroom teachers, not to mention the man in the street.

Speaking as a communicator, I can report on a few efforts to bridge the gap, both continuing and sporadic.

Members of the American Educational Research Assn. have two interest groups to address communication issues:  Communication of Research and Research Use.

AERA’s Communication and Outreach Committee presents panels at each year’s annual meeting on communicating education research to the public. I have helped organize this panel for the past 2 or 3 years. We gather newspaper reporters, bloggers, and researchers to speak about communication from their perspective.

In my own work I take cues from my friends in science, including the Natl. Assn. of Science Writers and the AAAS and the NSF.  Last year I attended their joint conference on science research communication and can recommend it.

The Education Writers Association, which serves reporters, editors, and higher ed communicators, holds workshops throughout the year and an annual conference. I’ve benefited from getting to know reporters and other higher ed people and look forward to the next conference in April.

In our own state, WCER hosts leaders of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESAs) annually for a one-day conference. Researchers share their recent work with CESA staff and productive conversation ensues; sometimes new partnerships form.

So what I describe is a mix of research and practice. Frank’s original point remains, though:  The field of education communication is ripe for more research on what’s effective.


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