Research Use as Learning: The Case of School District Central Offices

Prior research generally reveals the myriad reasons why policymakers fail to use research that fundamentally challenges their current policies and practices.

Little is known about instances in which policymakers do use research to ground substantial shifts in how they work, what prompts that use, how that use occurs, and the conditions that support it. This study attempts to address this knowledge gap by studying seven school district central offices in Washington State currently trying to use research to transform how their central offices operate to support teaching and learning improvements. All districts are partnering with intermediary organizations helping with the process who view research use as a learning process. The sample includes one mid-sized district working with an external intermediary, one medium-sized district working with a university-based research center, and a consortium of five small districts working with a state-funded regional support organization. Honig is observing administrative meetings, shadowing and interviewing administrators, and conducting document reviews. She is also administering performance assessment tasks with administrators to gauge whether or not they understand the research being used.