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Applying Research to Practice

Recently, I had a conversation with a faculty member about the role of research and the disconnect between what research finds and how the apply these findings into practice. For those who are familiar with academic writing, you can recall a section at the end of most articles called the implications section. This is the section where the author tries to explain how their research has implications for the field. However, how does this transition actually occur? Does it occur? What can we do to help? Often, the relationship between research and practice is assumed to be a working one - but is this actually the case?

Stack of books.

I'm sure there are probably tons of research articles discussing this exact same topic - but I'm not going to spend time reviewing this for you here today. Today's post is about what we can do as instructional designers to help bridge this gap. My process is as follows 1) I normally read an article of some interest to me as an instructional designer - this could be something that has to do with community, instructional strategies, new technology, 2) reflect on my own experience and what I can do or how I could implement these items, 3) then, I just do it!

If I do not have a specific goal in mind as to where this research could be implemented - I write down areas where in the future it could work. I realize this method doesn't work for everyone - nor is it backed by any sort of research. I just try to explore and find how I can take specific strategies backed by research and implement these into our programs. This is often much easier when a program has some sort of funding or incentive to implement these changes. However, for many educational systems across the nation - this is not always the case. So the question remains, how do we implement research into practice?

Evaluate the Audience - this may seem like you are jumping ahead a few steps - but once you have your audience narrowed down you start to establish a relationship or knowledge about them. What excites them, what motivates them, was the information self-reported, is the data still current, create a focus group, don't know something - ask them! Whatever method works best for you, once you have your audience narrowed down you are able to understand if the topic would fit in before you start to put a square-peg into a round-hole.

Communicate and Research - ask others if the research is actually being implemented in the field. If it is - how is it being done at other places? If it is being implemented elsewhere - reach out and ask what works for them, how the topic/strategies are structured, how did they get started, etc. By understanding and learning from others, you may be able to best determine how the research will work in your own setting.

Put Practice into Research - I recently overhead one of my co-workers state that in order to put research into practice we must first put practice into research. I asked for clarification and they explained that if we focus our research around items that are currently being doing (practice) then we'll be able to have a working system where both parties are invested in the outcome and therefore are willing to help with the process.

Create a Pilot or Trial - before any plan goes full blown - try a small group first. Test a sample and try out your method or idea first. By testing out your theory on a small group, you are able to see what works, what doesn't work, what could be improved, did the theory work according to plan, did you get the results you expected? Once you have ran through your idea once, it really helps tweak out the kinks before you commit.

Again, while I have no basis for my own personal experiences and how to implement research into practice, I'm curious as to what works for you? Have you tried any of the methods above? Do you have any other methods that have worked in your experiences?

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