MSAN Featured in Education Week
September 6, 2017
Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) was recently featured in the Education Week article, "Moving Beyond Building Practitioner Capacity to Mutual Learning in Research-Practice Partnerships."
From Gap Filling to Co-Construction and Learning
Building capacity in a partnership can be framed as filling gaps in practitioners' knowledge and skills. This view calls to mind Paulo Freire's concept of "banking education," where researchers deposit knowledge into practitioners' heads which practitioners passively accept. It privileges a one-way pathway, where researchers produce knowledge that practitioners consume in more or less skilled ways. This view also sometimes brings a deficit orientation towards practitioners, limiting their role as only that of consumers of research and knowledge.
We find partnerships can be rich places for dialogue and co-construction of research and policy solutions. Here, both research and practice expertise is valued. Practitioners are active partners who bring extensive expertise related to content, pedagogy, and how to work within complex educational systems. In partnerships, practitioners are knowledge generators, too. For instance, in the Strategic Education Research Partnership's work with the Minority Student Achievement Network, teacher co-designers played a critical role in designing, testing, and redesigning instructional materials to support Algebra learning.
Further, the learning in a partnership is not one-sided: RPPs also aim to build the capacity of researchers to engage in more practice-relevant work and to impact local policies and programs. They can contribute to researchers learning new research methods to pursue practice questions. For example, in the Seattle-Renton STEM partnership with the University of Washington, researchers learned new social network analysis methods in response to the district's interest in documenting the broader influence of resources beyond those teachers immediately involved in the project. More broadly, though, partnership work can lead to shifts in researchers' understanding of problems in education, in their own research agenda, and in how they orient to research. All involved in a partnership stand to learn from the work together, not only practitioners.