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Advocates Identify Collaboration as Key for Meaningful Rural Ed. Research

When researchers, practitioners, and policymakers gathered for last year's National Conference on Rural Education Research, one of the primary themes that emerged was the need for interdisciplinary partnerships among those three groups.

Researchers said more conversation among those stakeholder groups would be key to developing meaningful research that could be put into practice. That is one of the primary findings in a new working paper, "Advancing Rural Education Research: Importance of Interdisciplinary Research Partnerships," from the National Center for Research on Rural Education in Lincoln, Neb.

The paper resulted from a two-day conference during which 156 attendees from 19 states gathered to talk about rural education research. The biggest percentage of those present (50 percent) were researchers.

Participants were asked to answer pre-determined questions in roundtable conversations, and extensive notes were taken by graduate research assistants and other designated note takers. Those 46 pages were analyzed to highlight major ideas.

Four major themes emerged, and chief among them was the need for interdisciplinary research partnerships. Other top themes were: lack of a consistent definition of rural; lack of a unified definition and methods to measure student success; and determining more effective ways for relevant research to go to consumers who will advance rural students' success.

They said more collaborative relationships could help address those issues, such as how to define student outcomes and rurality, and it could help researchers better communicate their findings so those could more easily be applied.

Some of the group's specific suggestions for future rural education research were:

• Move away from a deficit model and focus on strengths

• Take into consideration community-related variables (e.g. service-learning opportunities, generational influences)

• Examine how to empower families to be involved in research as well as their children's education

• Evaluate the sustained impact of teachers' professional-development experiences.

The paper's authors were Mary A. Hellwege, Maureen A. O'Connor, Gwen C. Nugent, Gina M. Kunz, and Susan M. Sheridan.

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