Teacher-Researcher Partnerships Fuel the Engine of School Improvement

By Anne Vilen and Taylor Trelka

The gap between education research and practice reflects persistent disconnect. Teachers sometimes feel that researchers are out of touch—too distant from the reality of the classroom to offer useful advice. Researchers read and discuss their work with other researchers but less often with the teachers (and students) upon whom it can have the greatest impact.

Fortunately, the research-practice gap promises to narrow as more and more teachers become researchers in their own classrooms. Teachers, in collaboration with school leaders and professional researchers, are often in the best position to ask key questions, identify patterns, and distill conclusions from education research. After all, who better to evaluate and test an innovative education solution than the person who directly facilitates student learning?

At EL Education, a nonprofit that provides curriculum and professional development for schools, we work with many teachers and school leaders who are directly involved in our active research projects. The EL research team designs data collection tools for teachers and supports teacher-researchers with analysis and facilitated conversation. Topics vary from social and emotional learning to classroom management to math and reading instruction. Here, we share four lessons we’ve learned from our teacher-researcher partnerships.

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