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What are ways to bolster practitioners’ capacity to use research evidence?

One strategy for building practitioners’ research capacity is to provide resources (e.g. fact sheets, workshops, briefings, and trainings) that support them in interpreting findings and identifying ways research can be applied to their practice needs. For an example of one such training, see: Using Research Evidence: A Practice Guide.

The ability of a practice organization to use research evidence is tied to its absorptive capacity, or its ability to value, assimilate, and apply new information to organizational practices. As a result of studying school districts, partnerships, and organizational learning, Cynthia Coburn and Caitlin Farrell (2016; 2018) suggest that the following factors play a role in promoting evidence use:

  • Relevant prior knowledge and expertise among practitioners engaged in the change effort
  • Formal and informal communication pathways to facilitate knowledge sharing and problem solving within the central office
  • Strategic knowledge leadership, or a leader’s concerted efforts to create, extend, and apply new knowledge to the organization’s relevant knowledge base
  • Resources for partnering, including adequate time, staffing, and financial resources and the purchase of materials necessary to engage in the work

For more information about absorptive capacity, see: Absorptive Capacity: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding District Office Central Learning.

For other examples of conditions that enable school district leaders to use research evidence in their decision making, see: A Piece of the Action: Three District Leaders on Fostering Research Use.

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Using Research