The University of Washington, the Exploratorium, the Education Development Center, Inverness Research, and the University of Colorado - Boulder have come together to form a Research+Practice (R+P) Collaboratory. The Collaboratory seeks to address and reframe the gap between research and practice in K-12 STEM education. This gap persists despite decades of work by many leading organizations, associations, and individuals. Attempts to close the gap have generally focused on creating resources and mechanisms that first explain or illustrate "what research says" and then invite educators to access and integrate findings into practice. Recently, however, attention has turned to the ways in which the medical sciences are addressing the gap between research and clinical practice through the developing field of "translational research." In medicine, the strategy has been to shift the focus from adoption to adaptation of research into practice. Implicit in the notion of adaptation is a bi-directional process of cultural exchange in which both researchers and practitioners come to understand how the knowledge products of each field can strengthen the professional activities in the other. Along these lines, the R+P Collaboratory is working with leading professional associations and STEM improvement efforts to leverage their existing knowledge and experience and to build sustainable strategies for closing the gap. Activities include:
- Collecting, creating and synthesizing translational research resources to expand STEM educators' and educational leaders' access and awareness to current relevant research.
- Supporting multiple opportunities for cross-sector (research and practice; education and social sciences; formal and informal) meetings to foster critical engagement and cultural exchange.
- Testing, documenting and innovating new resources and mechanisms at Adaptation Sites and disseminating both products and results through the R+P Resource Center.
The R+P Collaboratory is developing an online 'Go-To' Resource Center website that houses the resources collected, created, and curated by the Collaboratory. The Resource Center also has significant 'Take-Out' features, with all materials meta-tagged so that they can be automatically uploaded, reformatted, and integrated into the existing communication and professional development mechanisms (e.g., newsletters, digests, conferences, and websites) of a dozen leading professional associations within a Professional Association Partner Network.
In light of new and emerging standards in the STEM disciplines, the Collaboratory is focusing its work on four salient and timely bodies of research: (a) STEM Practices, (b) Formative Assessment, (c) Cyberlearning, and (d) Learning as a Cross-Setting Phenomenon. Special emphasis is being placed on research and practice that focuses on the learning of children and youth from communities historically underrepresented in STEM fields.
The work of the R+P Collaboratory includes research and evaluation of its own efforts through studies aimed at answering the following questions:
- How are Collaboratory resources and engagement activities accessed, experienced and leveraged by participants?
- What resources, mechanisms and learning contexts support cultural exchange among STEM education researchers and practitioners?
- What new kinds of practices result when research-based evidence is adapted into evidence-based practices, and how does it change learning opportunities for K-12 aged children?
- How can effective strategies, mechanisms and resources of the Collaboratory be scaled and adapted to new contexts?
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