Designing a Research Exchange

April 5, 2013

Image will this thing fly?

The Wright Brothers finally designed something that could fly, so maybe we could too.

We want to create an exchange, or a collaboration, that would more closely knit research conducted in our School of Education with the teachers and organizations that could feed into it and benefit from it.

After two years of fact finding and data gathering we called our inaugural planning meeting. We invited representatives from faculty, staff, statewide organizations, and school districts. A professional facilitator guided our 4-hour discussion so that we could take notes and participate.

We have examined similar research exchanges operating at other universities and have sifted through to extract what might work in our own context, with our resources and challenges. We came up with the following, to be addressed at subsequent meetings:

Facilitate a place or space for practitioners and researchers to ask questions and get answers

Put system in place that serves not just large districts but all

Must have broad faculty interest and investment

Image the design team meets

Create a repository of information

A collaboration of groups & network of organizations

Build a prototype

Offer mutual incentives for practitioners and researchers, parity in access

A place for simple info sharing, match making, and collaborative research

Funds needed for meetings of collaborators, to hire a full time staff person

Use resources of allied organizations

Ask the University and the School to provides seed/startup funds

Sustain with help from grants

Image our facilitator takes notes

Next steps: Interview faculty researchers to create detailed descriptions of their current work and their future interests

Pursue funding/resources

Define metrics for success

Do 1 or 2 things well, maintain a focus

Discover the important, shared challenges facing practitioners , districts, and statewide entities

Create timeline including school districts and issues of need.

The immediate task is to create a summary and proposal document to present to the Dean.


Social media for researchers and academics

April 21, 2012

Here’s my presentation for the AERA 2012 communication workshop i cohosted with friend and colleague Ron Dietel of UCLA CRESST. I suggest things to consider when planning to use social media to share research findings with non-specialist audiences and the media.

Reaching learners with disabilities

February 24, 2011

I’ve posted videos of 3 presentations from yesterday’s conference for staff of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Educational Service Agencies. This year’s theme was Serving students with special needs and low-incidence disabilities.

Inclusion and social justice approaches to educating youth with disabilities from diverse backgrounds.
Audrey Trainor is associate professor of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. Her interest areas include multicultural and bilingual special education, second language acquisition and disability, adolescent transition to adulthood, and qualitative research methods. She recently analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2), focusing on the transition of students with high incidence disabilities.

Using technology to improve literacy for struggling adolescent readers.
Kimber Wilkerson is professor of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. Her research aims to improve long-term outcomes for children and adolescents with social, behavioral, and mental health needs. Recent projects have focused on academic instruction in juvenile corrections; academic interventions that affect children’s social outcomes; and accountability policies and practices in special education. An ongoing project is the Day Treatment, Residential, & Juvenile Correctional Schools Program. Carly Roberts is a doctoral student with experience in reading interventions for adolescents with low incidence disabilities.

Video teleconferencing to support families of children with autism spectrum disorders.
Wendy Machalicek is assistant professor of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. Her interests include individualized interventions and system wide supports for students with severe disabilities, including autism, intellectual disabilities, and multiple disabilities; effectiveness of teacher and parent education; applied behavior analysis; and using technology in professional development and family support.

Communicating research more effectively

January 21, 2011

Students and faculty who plan to attend the AERA Annual Meeting this year may be interested in a communications professional development course.

A half-day workshop, Communicating research through effective presentations, social media, and writing, will focus on these sometimes neglected skills.

Instructors will be Ron Dietel, assistant director for research use and communications at UCLA’s National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST);  Barbara McKenna, Communications Director for the School Redesign Network at Stanford University and for the Leadership for Equity and Accountability in Districts and Schools (LEADS); and Paul Baker, senior communicator at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER).

The syllabus is here

The course blog is here

The course Ning is here

Registration information is here

Communicating education research

December 28, 2010

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.

Follow the (education) money

August 24, 2010

Ed Money dot org

Education writers and journalists will be checking out, a resource that shows spending on K-12 education from the federal economic-stimulus law in states and school districts nationwide.

The site currently features data on $62.1 billion in grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including 39,594 grants to 12,408 school districts and other education agencies across the country. is the only national website to link district-by-district spending with demographic data from the federal Common Core of Data.

Education Writers Association Assistant Director Lori Crouch says the site shows how districts’ grant information stacks up to others of similar size. “You can compare how fast urban, suburban, and rural districts are spending their money,” she said. “And you can see if your district is spending stimulus money at a faster clip than the rest of the state, or whether it’s holding on to a particular grant.” is  a project of the EWA with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was developed  with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Matt Waite.

New models for education journalism

May 28, 2010

reimagining education journalism

Reimagining Education Journalism
By Darrel West, Russ Whitehurst, and E.J. Dionne, Jr.
Governance Studies at Brookings, 2010.  PDF, 24 p.
Read the report

Teachers do it.
Journalists do it.
Researchers do it.

They all bemoan the lack of coverage of education in mass media.

In this case, three Brookings Institution writers go beyond complaining to imagine ways of improving and expanding the coverage of education.

Their white paper, released this month, summarizes new trends in education coverage and how major news organizations are re-inventing their futures.

In a 2009 study, these authors documented that (a) education makes up only 1.4 percent of the total front page and prime news hour coverage, and that (b) much of that 1.4 percent focuses not on classrooms and school reform, but on the politics of education.

This report, issued May 11, outlines new delivery systems, including niche publications, news aggregators, social media, and new content providers. Since readers of this blog are familiar with those topics, I won’t elaborate. But the report goes on to describe three business models for education journalism: subsidized content, for-profit models, and indirect public subsidies.

The Carnegie Corporation subsidizes K-12 education coverage on National Public Radio because it’s a Carnegie focus area and because NPR reaches Carnegie’s target audience of practitioners and policymakers.

Successful for-profit models of education journalism include The Chronicle of Higher Education and  InsideHigherEd.

The authors point out that U.S. has a long history of direct or indirect public support for various publications. For example, newspapers and magazines long have benefitted from subsidized postage rates. They refer to the recent book, The Death and Life of American Journalism, by Robert McChesney and John Nichols, who suggest a tax credit for the “first $200” spent on daily newspapers. This approach focuses assistance on consumers, not individual news outlets. This model would allow subscribers, not  the government, to direct the flow of the indirect subsidies.

Beyond business models per se, education news organizations are developing new partnerships that benefit readers and the organizations themselves. Education Week stories will soon appear on the Associated Press newswire. The weekly also partners with the McClatchey Wire and with education aggregators such as ASCD Smart Brief.

The Center for Public Integrity partners with two dozen news organizations to offer its “Investigative News Network” for watchdog journalism.

The authors caution us to not forget print media.  “Millions of citizens, notably including parents, still rely on older media forms for most their information on education,” they say. “Despite newsrooms cutbacks, the ‘old’ media still provide most of the daily coverage of school systems across the country.” And that, they argue, presents an opportunity to improve on something that already exists. They suggests creating alliances among education reporters around the country. Newspapers themselves can do more to share coverage. The Education Writers Association can become a focal point for such partnerships.

“The dilemma facing all media is figuring out how to get readers or advertisers to pay for online content,” they observe. “Determining how to migrate from an ecosystem with a large amount of free online material to paid content is the chief contemporary puzzle.”