Shelley Billig, Vice President, RMC Research Corporation
Connected Knowing as a theme for the 12th IARSLCE couldn’t come at a better time. There has been a strong push in both the PK-12 and higher education world to conduct useful research, to translate that research into practice guidance and tools, and to disseminate the information as quickly and as widely as possible. The IARSLCE can be a wonderful catalyst for research to practice, and this theme can help us to organize our efforts and bring at least some of them to scale.
Our review of the studies on research to practice in education shows that there are six major challenges to be overcome:
1. Knowledge issues, such as having few conclusive results, poor technical quality, and lack of relevance or utility for practice;
2. Accessibility issues, such as weak information channels among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers and limited skills among practitioners to understand and interpret research findings;
3. Professional culture problems such as researchers and practitioners having different languages and priorities, overreliance on professional wisdom or consensus, and the highly contextualized knowledge created from the research community;
4. Careless or inappropriate use of the research from the practitioner side and overclaiming results on the research side;
5. Systems issues, such as having a fragmented research enterprise, few credible models of using research to shape educational policies, no mechanisms for using the research efficiently to redesign educational policies or practices; and
6. Of course, limited funding.
The way to begin to overcome these challenges is to develop research diffusion models, establish boundary-crossing practices across disciplines, and engage in developing knowledge communities and systematic dissemination vehicles and mechanisms. The IARSLCE does this – we have multiple opportunities to share research, develop common research agendas, provide valuable expert feedback on studies, and publish our results. The IARSLCE is the only research community that serves K-12 service-learning purposes and one of the few that serves higher education in an interdisciplinary approach to service-learning and community engagement research. We are the place to convene and share our work to serve the research to practice needs of the field.
For these and many other reasons (including meeting the nicest researchers in the world), I urge you to consider submitting your research papers, be they around findings, theory, or methodology, for presentation at this conference. If accepted (or not), you should come to the conference to join in on the effort to advance both research and practice in our field. At the least, you will gain knowledge. In addition, you will gain access to a network of researchers who are passionately dedicated to service-learning and community engagement and to furthering research to practice to improve the educational experience of all students.