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Research-Savvy Talent Management

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Naima Khandaker, Battelle for Kids Human Capital Specialist, authored to this post. Naima is a former teacher and current education policy nerd who believes there's no limit to what a great educator can achieve.

These days, we hear a lot about new school-improvement programs that are "research-based." But what does that mean, exactly? Well, it could mean that the program designers carefully examined rigorous, well-constructed studies and directly aligned their methodologies with them. It could mean that they loosely based their program on those studies. Or, it could be the case that the research informing the program consisted of Joe Schmo analyzing data in his basement.

To further complicate matters, the sheer number of factors that can influence student learning and other educational outcomes makes it extremely difficult to quantify the effects of specific programs and policies. As a result, multiple studies on the same topic often seem to contradict each other.

As K-12 talent managers who are inundated with research--not only from the education sector, but from HR and business as well--how do you make sense of it all? How do you use research to inform key decisions that will impact educators and students? Following are some strategies for talent managers, or other consumers of research, to consider:

1. Examine Research with a Discerning Eye: In addition to determining the quality of the research methods employed in each study, ask yourself:

  • How does the study fit into the larger body of literature focused on the topic? What trends emerge when looking at these studies in the aggerate?
  • What factors may have contributed the program producing the anticipated effect? Could they be improved or mitigated?

2. Have Plan and Stick to It: Navigating the sea of research and school-improvement programs can be a daunting task, but having a well-defined strategic plan can help you adopt improvement strategies aligned with your organizational vision. Similarly, a thoughtful succession plan can help you stay the course amidst leadership changes or other shakeups.

3. Leverage Your Own Data: In his recent piece for the Brookings Institution, Thomas Kane notes that since 2002, large-scale impact evaluations from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Evaluation have taken, on average, 5.6 years to complete. If only schools had that kind of time! In the absence of research, consider ways to improve your current processes for collecting and analyzing various types of data. In doing so, there's a lot you can learn about what does or does not work in your organization.

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