Intermediaries’ Role in Transferring Research Evidence from “Producers” to “Consumers”: The Case of School-Based Programs

Who do school districts look to for research evidence on instructional, health, and social programs?

Despite increased demand for evidence-based programs in schools, we know little about how districts acquire, interpret, and use research evidence. In 2011, Neal and Neal received a small grant to better understand who local school district personnel look to for research. They found that school districts have preferences for internal versus external sources of research. External sources consist of a diverse range of intermediaries—organizations and individuals with formal and informal roles related to school districts. In the current study the investigators will examine the conditions under which school districts are more likely to rely on internal versus external sources of research evidence and how different types of intermediaries influence the adoption of evidence-based programs. The investigators will conduct approximately 400 interviews with administrators from 16 school districts and 75 intermediary organizations in Michigan. They will observe meetings and analyze school documents to gain a better understanding of how research evidence is identified, evaluated, and adopted. The researchers will also map the social networks that link staff through to intermediaries, and where applicable, to researchers. A subset of intermediaries noted will be sampled, interviewed, and shadowed to examine how they transfer information to districts.