For whom and to what end?

For Whom and to What End is Educational Research Ultimately Directed? An Analysis of Knowledge Mobilization Strategies Developed by Schools of Education

Principal investigator:
Award amount:
$46,856
Originating sponsor:
The Spencer Foundation
Grant start date:
September 1, 2014
Grant end date:
December 31, 2016

The challenge:

How can we best understand how and when scholarly research is most valuable to other scholars and to education practitioners and policymakers?

Many people, both academics and non-academics, have asked questions about the relevance and accessibility of educational research.  Does all that scholarship have an effect? Does it improve education? Is it applicable? Does it catalyze other scholarship? Does it lead, perhaps indirectly, to breakthrough applications that can help teachers, administrators or policy makers? Other than read it and talk about it, what are we supposed to do with educational research?

Increasingly, individual researchers and some colleges of education have developed strategies to enhance the usability of educational research. The project team refers to this challenge, generally, as knowledge mobilization for scholarship in education (KMSE).

The approach:

The project team conducted a study that compared the KMSE strategies of three schools of education at public research-intensive universities, as well as the reception of those strategies by practitioners from K-12 schools and policymakers in neighboring areas.

Five questions guided the team’s research:

1. What are the specific strategies of knowledge mobilization scholarship in education (KMSE) developed by the three participating colleges of education at research-intensive universities?

2. To what extent have KMSE-related metrics of scholarly impact been incorporated by these colleges of education?

3. What are the specific practices of KMSE employed by faculty at these colleges of education?

4. Has the implementation of KMSE produced significant changes in how local teachers and policymakers use educational research?

5. Has the implementation of KMSE led to changes in the interactions among local teachers, policymakers and educational researchers?

Findings and impact:

Foremost, KMSE appears to be neither officially recognized nor formally incentivized in organizational terms. Moreover, it remains minimally, and often unsystematically, monitored and therefore inadequately understood.

However, the study also found significant and growing awareness among faculty and local educators of the potential of KMSE. Second, faculty across colleges affirm the importance of expanding the relevance, usability and accessibility of educational scholarship. Third, organizational and individual dispositions suggest persistent efforts to contribute to more dialogical models of KMSE independent of formal recognition or incentives. Fourth, innovative KMSE practices surface as “tensions” between experimenting with new forms within old structures.

Thus, while the KMSE strategies and practices identified in the study operate in limited and conservative ways, noteworthy awareness and application underscore that KMSE will continue to influence how colleges of education understand themselves and their relationships with other education stakeholders.