Bridging Research, Policy, and Practice: Voices from Inside the Academy
by Noelle Paufler, Jessica Holloway-Libell & Audrey Amrein-Beardsley - May 11, 2014
Inside the Academy, an online educational historiography, models the innovative use of technology to transmit educational research beyond academia. This is done by chronicling the personal and professional journeys of highly esteemed educational researchers and scholars through video interviews. In this study, researchers conducted an in-depth qualitative analysis of twelve honorees’ interview data. Analyses revealed that Inside the Academy has the potential to function as an accessible, relevant, research dissemination platform by providing policymakers, practitioners, pre-service teachers, graduate students, and others increased access to open source information and expert knowledge about foundational and contemporary educational philosophies, salient policy issues, and research-based practices of utmost prevalence in America’s public school system, and beyond.
There is a growing consensus that research should be available as a free, public good that is accessible to a general audience outside of the proverbial ivory tower (Furlough, 2010; Green, 2000; Shulenburger, 2005). Open-access pioneers such as traditional scholarly journals that offer all or some of their articles to the public, online, for free (e.g., Teachers College Record [TCR], Educational Policy Analysis Archives [EPAA], and Current Issues in Education [CIE]) have been leading these efforts (Willinsky, 2005) and advocating for such practices, now for decades.
Related, another promising method of breaking down the barriers between research and practice involves the deployment of technology-based platforms (Carr & OBrien, 2010; Cooper, Levin, & Campbell, 2009; Willinsky, 2005). Online videos, for example, have found a new and unique role in academics. While videos began in academia (and elsewhere) as a way for amateur filmmakers to showcase their various forms of work, and to share their work with a wider public audience, online videos have increasingly expanded to serve many more diverse academic and other purposes.
INSIDE THE ACADEMY
Inside the Academy, modeled after the award winning Bravo television series Inside the Actors Studio, is a platform-based, asynchronous, open-access show that captures and delivers the personal and professional journeys and scholarly works of some of the most highly esteemed members of the education academy. The scholars thus far featured (see the Appendix) have contributed widely to the academy (e.g., in aesthetic education, cognition, meta-analysis, etc.), representing multiple perspectives in the field. Nearly all have been elected to the National Academy of Education, and many have served as President of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).
Honoring these exemplars and their scholarly works is done, specifically, via a series of (a) scholarly interviews (with videos and transcripts provided); (b) suggested readings that have had the most demonstrable and measurable impact per honoree; (c) photographs that offer a glimpse into each honorees personal and professional histories; and (d) personal and professional reflections submitted by each honorees colleagues, family members, and friends.
As the goal of Inside the Academy is to provide others increased access to these (and other forthcoming) distinguished educational scholars, reaching a diverse audience is also paramount. While thus far, Inside the Academy seems to be sustaining a widespread international audience of over 1,000 viewers per month, representing 24 different languages and more than 45 countries from around the globe, at this time little is known about the specific content, and major and minor themes audiences are potentially accessing.
Hence, researchers conducted an in-depth qualitative analysis (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1995) of the nearly 285 pages of interview transcripts taken from each of the aforementioned interviews and constructed four distinct content-based themes believed to be of intellectual prevalence and use to Inside the Academys viewers. These four themes include findings about (a) honorees personal inspirations, (b) the influence of John Dewey on the honorees as scholars, (c) honorees recommendations for practice, and (d) honorees recommendations for educational policy, as each honoree contributed a unique perspective on this latter theme through his/her personal anecdotes, words of wisdom, and critiques of contemporary issues in education.
Honorees expressed similar motives for joining the profession. Many of the participants conjured memories of childhood and early career experiences as having shaped their foundational beliefs about education; these experiences also inspired them to specialize in their chosen areas of scholarly expertise. Linda Darling-Hammond, for example, questioned the stark disparity between her own educational experience and that of her sibling with disabilities: Why do we have this system where some kids are being labeled in one way and other kids are being labeled in another way, and the quality of the experience that they get is very different? She has since dedicated her work to rectifying the inequities that plague the public education system. Other honorees told stories of favorite teachers, inspirational parents, and former students who inspired their work. When asked explicitly about his inspiration, Carl Bereiter stated, I think its marvelous things that little kids do, while David Berliner described that what he finds most inspiring are the people who have tried to remind us of what we can be.
This drive to improve education, shared by all of the honorees, has followed them throughout their careers. Likewise, their scholarship has been continuously driven by similar inspirations and an innate devotion to serve the education system, all of which are still very alive and present regardless of honorees ages or academic statuses.
THE INFLUENTIAL WORK OF JOHN DEWEY
Another common theme is that of the influential work of those who came before these revered scholarsmost notably, the late John Dewey. Dewey is hands-down the most significantly influential to these scholars work, as a group. For example, Henry Hank Levin, who has advocated for enrichment, not remediation, connected his educational memories to the ideas of Dewey, attributing his personal boredom in school to a lack of purpose. He further explained that: Most people whom Ive spoken with think Dewey just said, Let kids do whatever they want. Thats nonsense. He thought that all education should have purpose.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE ACADEMY TO PRACTICE
Researchers also found that the honorees offered specific, practical advice to classroom teachers and graduate students. These suggestions were offered from two distinct vantage pointsthat of the classroom and from the academy. For example, Nel Noddings discussed a practical method of infusing a lesson of caring into a traditional mathematics class: [Students] work together and if a kid is being left out, what do you do? Well you pick a couple kids you know are going to be decent and receptive, and you say, Hey, how about if Johnny joins you. Hes got a couple good ideas. It works pretty well actually.
During the interviews, participants were also asked to provide recommendations for budding scholars. Diane Ravitch, for example, urged graduate students not to be afraid that its already been done, saying that, People have been saying that since Shakespeare, I can never be Shakespeare, therefore why should I write a play? People keep writing plays. Above all, researchers found that not only were the recommendations practical and relevant for educators and educational scholars, but honorees advice transcended the scope of the education field to potentially reach an audience of policymakers as well.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE ACADEMY FOR EDUCATIONAL POLICY
Finally, researchers found the most salience across the ways the honorees talked about their varying levels of dissatisfaction with current educational policy trends, particularly those that have ignored the research to which the honorees themselves have largely contributed. More impudently, the honorees collectively shared a direct disappointment for issues including the privatization of the education system (e.g., charters, vouchers) and the current (over)emphasis on high-stakes testing. Gene Glass explained his view on charter schools as a means of re-segregating public education along social class and ethnic and racial lines. W. James Popham noted that reliance on high-stakes tests results in curricular reductionism, where the only thing that is taught is whats on the test.
Actually, of most prominent concern was with the nations current accountability system. Lee Shulman stated, Learning is a much broader concept with many more facets to it that if it gets reduced to student achievement, and that gets reduced to standardized achievement tests, then youre a wreck. Others agreed. There was a pronounced consensus that the current state of affairs in Americas public schools will require greater ingenuity for the 21st century. Hope for such change was astutely expressed by Maxine Greene: I would like more value placed on imagination and creativity, and I believe that if you can encourage imagination, a lot of children would do better.
Overall, researchers found that the honorees thus far featured on Inside the Academy offered accessible, research-based, and practical recommendations regarding the current issues facing the American public education system, many of which were much more unique and nuanced than those highlighted in the condensed commentary provided herein. Most broadly, again overlooking the distinctive and inspiring content which individual viewers might access on more personal and professional levels, researchers found that Inside the Academy offers a unique contribution to the field of education in that it provides an accessible interpretation of educational research and a contemporary critique of the issues affecting the field from some of the academys finest scholars.
As per John Dewey, education should follow a democratic model (Baldacchino, 2008), further supporting the idea that informationeducational research in this caseshould be available and accessible to the public, as demonstrated by Inside the Academy. Since the site also contains information that could help to construct the much-needed bridge between research and practice, the increased solicitation of a broader audience could expand Inside the Academys influence. Indeed, this was the impetus for this commentary. Accessible and varied dissemination of educational research to all stakeholders is needed, particularly if a wider audience is to become more informed about, and involved in, current policy and reform efforts.
Baldacchino, J. (2008). "The power to develop dispositions": Revisiting John Dewey's democratic claims for education. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(1), 149-163.
Carr, J. A., & OBrien, N. P. (2010). Policy implications of education informatics. Teachers College Record, 112(10), 2703-2716. Retrieved from http://www.tcrecord.org/library/Abstract.asp?ContentId=15876
Cooper, A., Levin, B., & Campbell, C. (2009). The growing (but still limited) importance of
evidence in education policy and practice. Journal of Educational Change, 10(2), 13-13.
Furlough, M. (2010). Open access, education research, and discovery. Teachers College Record, 112(10), 2623-2648. Retrieved from http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentId=15874
Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Green, M. F. (2000). Bridging the gap: Multiple players, multiple approaches. New Directions
for Higher Education, 110, 107-113.
National Academy of Education. (n. d.). Retrieved from http://www.naeducation.org/
Shulenburger, D. E. (2005). Public goods and open access. New Review of Information Networking, 11(1), 3-11. doi: 10.1080/13614570500268282
Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. (1995). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Willinsky, J. (2005). Scientific research in a democratic culture: Or what's a social science for? Teachers College Record, 107(1), 38-51.
Appendix: Inside the Academy: Video and Article Links
To view the interviews and the other information featured on Inside the Academy, please see: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu
To view a quick overview of Inside the Academy on YouTube, please see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyKN1M4QGxw&feature=plcp
To view other short YouTube videos highlighting the individual interviews with each Inside the Academy honoree, please see: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8FB168058F8EB7F4&feature=view_all
To view personalized web pages for each honoree (including biographies, photo galleries, suggested reading lists, reflections of family and friends, etc.), please see:
Dr. Carl Bereiter: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/carl-bereiter
Dr. David Berliner: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/david-berliner
Dr. Jerome Jerry Bruner: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/jerome-jerry-bruner
Dr. Marilyn Cochran-Smith: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/marilyn-cochran-smith
Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/linda-darling-hammond
Dr. Elliot Eisner: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/elliot-eisner
Dr. Howard Gardner: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/howard-gardner
Dr. Gene Glass: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/gene-glass
Dr. John Goodlad: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/john-goodlad
Dr. Edmund Gordon: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/edmund-gordon
Dr. Maxine Greene: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/maxine-greene
Dr. Henry Hank Levin: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/henry-hank-levin
Dr. Susan Moore Johnson: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/susan-moore-johnson
Dr. Nel Noddings: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/nel-noddings
Dr. W. James Jim Popham: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/w-james-jim-popham
Dr. Diane Ravitch: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/diane-ravitch
Dr. Lee Shulman: http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/lee-shulman