Educators—teachers as well as school and district leaders—should consider undertaking these four strategies toward strong and meaningful engagement in the production and use of evidence in education. These strategies are aspirational—catalyzing action for the future. In this case, “evidence” refers to findings derived from systematic, empirical research. The strategies are based upon the belief that better policy and practice decisions ensue when evidence, professional judgement, and stakeholders’ values are appropriately considered.
Advance equity and inclusion by bringing evidence to life in classroom practice and school leadership
Every day in schools, educators gather information about students that can be used to advance equity and help each learner fulfill his or her greatest potential. To further these goals, teachers should seek out evidence that illuminates persistent educational challenges, demand ongoing support to effectively use evidence, and incorporate evidence-informed decision making as a guiding principle in their practice and professional learning. School and district leaders should nurture a culture of evidence for continuous improvement purposes — not just for accountability — by providing professional learning opportunities on effective evidence use and supporting the active engagement of school staff in research projects.
Identify and answer questions that matter most to educators and their students
All educators possess unique, valuable knowledge about their students and their profession; some educators take this even further by engaging in teacher research to produce innovations that advance the field. Teachers should be supported if they wish to pursue their own investigations or feel compelled to actively share their expertise with academic researchers especially in the early question-raising stages of studies, and critically assess academic research findings for relevance and accuracy. School and district leaders should promote and support teacher research, facilitate teacher participation in the different stages of academic studies, and, when possible, encourage academic researchers to help refine and expand upon teacher-generated knowledge.
Build partnerships for knowledge sharing and problem solving
Researcher and educator collaborations can lead to mutually beneficial, trusting relationships for sharing knowledge, creating common understandings, and promoting effective use of evidence. School and district leaders should facilitate the development of formal and informal partnerships that enable authentic dialogue among educators and researchers, ensure relevance of research questions and promote the sharing of data and findings. Similarly, interested teachers should work together with researchers to use evidence to inform instructional strategies, as well as professional beliefs and norms, and catalyze innovation and improvement. All partners should commit to transparency and a “no surprises” policy regarding findings and implications of studies.
Help build a common understanding of the role of families, students, and community organizations in evidence efforts
Community organizations as well as families and students can stand to benefit greatly from the evidence efforts with schools and districts and should be actively engaged throughout the evidence production and use process. Teachers and school and district leaders together should help support trusting relationships among researchers, community organizations, students and families to ensure constructive engagement and, eventually, beneficial use of findings.