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How Do You Align Research to Classroom Needs? Ask Teachers.

By Sarah D. Sparks and Sean Cavanagh

In its latest effort to make education research more relevant to the classroom, the Institute of Education Sciences plans to bring teachers to the table to inform the agency's research priorities. 

In a partnership announced early Tuesday IES and the University of Virginia's Jefferson Education Exchange, a nonprofit which collects teachers' written accounts of their experiences implementing digital tools in the classroom, announced they would hold confidential field meetings with teachers across the country to gauge their views on the most critical areas for research.

"Educators don't have a prominent voice right now in what gets researched," said Bart Epstein, a research associate professor at the University of Virginia and the president of the Jefferson Education Exchange. "I was a bit surprised when we talked to many K-12 education associations that I thought would be in regular consultation with IES on research topics. There's very little communication of that type happening."

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, the groups will hold regional meetings with individual and small groups of urban, suburban, and rural teachers on the issues they face and the kinds of data and research that would be most helpful. Each teacher will recieve a $200 stipend and have their expenses paid.

On Nov. 27, IES and the Exchange will also livestream a Washington discussion with representatives from about 70 teachers' organizations—from unions and administrators of alternative certification programs to content groups for physics or early-education teachers.

Mark Schneider, the IES director, said the teachers' perspectives will help inform the agency's research priorities going forward.

"I think this is the first systemic attempt to include teacher perspectives, and I don't expect it to be the last," Schneider said. "If we discover stuff that we believe is effective ... we need to keep in the back of our mind that we are dependent on the the 3.4 million teachers in schools to deliver better education services."

Epstein said the partners also hope to encourage teachers and their professional organizations to get involved more directly, such as asking physics teachers to review the usefulness of physics education research.

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