Diffusing Research Evidence in Educational Systems

How can school districts leverage social networks among administrators and teachers to improve their use of research evidence?

The Every Student Succeeds Act calls for state and local education systems to undertake significant improvement efforts that prioritize evidence-based programs and practices. But the use of research evidence within school systems is often limited to a small number of individuals, and these individuals vary in the degree to which they are connected to or isolated from others. Still lacking is knowledge about how to enhance the standing of those educators for whom research use is more commonplace. Strengthening connections to these high-end users of research evidence is likely to create a system that more uniformly and routinely embraces evidence-based knowledge. In this study, Finnigan and Daly will use the extensive dataset from their prior Foundation-supported work, in which they mapped districts’ leadership networks and school staff relationships; developed initial measures of how practitioners define, interpret, and use research evidence; and examined changes in school and district leadership networks and any associated changes in their definition, acquisition, and use of research evidence over several years. The investigators will update and merge the administrative data sources and conduct additional coding to generate attributes for school staff, including their gender, position, level of experience, and perceptions about learning and research. To identify conditions that enable individuals to diffuse research across schools, analyses will focus on overall and subgroup network patterns; how these patterns relate to level of research use; and whether users were early, majority, or lagging research users. A key motivation for the work is to inform the construction of future interventions to bolster the use of research evidence.