Research in Education

Insights into a Good Research Partnership

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Joan Green: Successful partnerships between university researchers and practitioners are characterized by relationships that are reciprocal, respectful, and collaborative. And, most importantly, they make a big difference for students. To assist us in this endeavour we have asked individuals involved in successful research partnerships to share their stories. We know that positive professional relationships are the backbone of successful research partnerships. Unique collaborations happen when people work together across traditional boundaries to create the best possible learning environments for our students.

Penny Milton: A partnership has to be about doing something that you can't do yourself. So it means that you have to bring together a variety of different interests. One of the early challenges was actually in developing the conceptual framework for the initiative. Part of our strategy is to bring the participating districts and schools together occasionally, to keep them in the network, such that those that may be less energetic actually see what others are doing.

Jackie Oxley: I think probably one of the key challenges for all of us in the early days was really understanding the nature of our mandates and where the challenges were, where the barriers were.

Shelley Lothian: Many of our financial policies actually don't support service integration so it's very difficult for partners to actually share their resources across different sectors. So how we've overcome some of that is we've managed to put together a more formal agreement about how we're going to work together. And that allows us to share some of the resources that are really critical for moving us forward.

Richard Stein: The greatest benefit that I see with this collaboration is that teachers are looking at their practice, at their job, as a professional – taking more of an academic view of learning how to be better teachers. And in doing so [this] causes students to be better achievers.

Judith Taylor: And that's what's important to teachers. They want to find out what will work in context with this group of students. How can I help them? And to have the perspective of the researchers it's very helpful in finding out those things that are worth pursuing and going deeper with.

Chris Mattatal: I think we have to take a long view of research instead of taking the short view. People don't immediately accept you because you're at a university or you have all this research behind you, it's not that easy. You have to earn that rapport and you have to be able to give something to classroom teachers before they say – Okay, now you're talking my language, you're giving me something really practical. Now I'm ready to listen to you.

A lot of teachers don't have a lot of time on their daily schedule to go and do the background research that's necessary to show why PALS is effective or why curriculum based measurement is effective. But we have that background and we have that body of research that we can bring to the School Board and say – This is what the research is currently saying. And this is the correct way to go.

Chris Suurtamm: I think the partnership worked because really as researchers we really do respect multiple perspectives. We also do know that changing teacher practice or implementing new ideas in how one teaches mathematics is not something very simple. It's quite complex. It challenges teachers' beliefs. It challenges sort of people's confidence, their security in how they go about doing things. And we were very careful with that and very respectful in terms of that.

Catherine Pawis: We chose to work with York on this project because we have an ongoing relationship with York University. The lead researcher in this case, Susan Dion, has worked on our aboriginal community advisory committee in the past. So I'm familiar with her work and she's familiar with our priorities as a board and a system in terms of aboriginal education.

Celia Haig-Brown: There's reciprocity between and amongst all the partners involved. So that university people who come to work on research learn from the field. The field learns from the cutting edge research that the researchers bring.  And everyone learns from the community partners.