What qualities should researchers in RPPs possess?

Assuming the right technical and analytical skills are in place, RPP leaders say they look for researchers who are interested in working with district and classroom partners to define an agenda. They look for people who are able to communicate findings to a wide range of stakeholders. And they are looking for individuals who thrive in an environment where they must turn around high quality research at a faster pace than in traditional research settings.

Steve Fleischman of Education Northwest suggests asking job candidates to describe their interactions with individuals they’ve worked with on research projects, and inviting them to talk about what matters to them most in terms of how they do their job. He is listening for an inclination toward collaboration, the ability to convey ideas in plain language, and a desire to generate research to improve practice.

Some specific “rules of the road” include:

  • developing a mindset that researchers aren’t here to help practitioners “do it right,” but rather to validate each side’s expertise and authority in advancing collaborative work;
  • cultivating an open and honest approach to communication that builds rapport and trust;
  • demonstrating a commitment to addressing problems of practice and developing district capacity; and
  • displaying sensitivity to district timelines, contexts and history as the work is negotiated.

What are staffing models on the research side?

RPPs are staffed in various ways. The most practical decision about staffing is a budgetary one. Some RPPs have one or two core staff members in addition to a network of researchers who serve as consultants. Larger RPPs may have many staff members with differentiated content expertise. A few RPPs offer graduate research or post-doc positions. One goal of employing graduate students is to provide opportunities for young researchers to develop the non-technical skills that allow them to enter a career pipeline for this growing field. For instance, MIST displays on their website their graduate “alumni”—individuals who have developed the particular skills that other RPPs might be seeking.

What kinds of training develop research staff skills?

While different partnerships take a variety of approaches, communications typically involves both sides having their own independent communications strategies and teams, with some agreements in place about the coordination and timing of external communications.

One key agreement is to develop a “no surprises” policy whereby all partners have an opportunity to review a report before it is released to the broader public, and can prepare a response to the research team, the media, and/or the public. This allows both researchers and practitioners time to anticipate and craft thoughtful responses to questions and concerns that may arise upon release of research findings.

Beyond the research team, what are other key roles?

Partnerships require that time is dedicated to coordinating the work and communicating to internal and external stakeholders—key functions that should not be overlooked. Staff such as data manager, communications manager, and community outreach specialist can increase the partnership’s capacity and reach, and ultimately help RPPs produce research that is practical and accessible. Staff in these roles often serve as critical bridges between research and practice.