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

Districts nationwide have launched efforts to fundamentally change their central offices to support improved teaching and learning for all students and are turning to research for help. The research provides promising guides but is challenging to use. What happens when central offices try? We explored that question in six districts using sociocultural learning theory to analyze 124 interviews, 499.25 observation hours, and approximately 300 documents. We found that central office administrators varied in their appropriation of five research-based ideas between and somewhat within districts. Prior knowledge and assistance from intermediary organizations proved necessary but not sufficient to support appropriation absent internal leaders who taught others how to use the research. These findings elaborate research use as a learning process that may require particular, intensive internal leadership.

(Abstract courtesy of American Educational Research Journal.)


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