When it comes to working with researchers, Principal Stan Garber of Cabrillo Middle School in Santa Clara, California, says, “It really is all about individual kids. And I think if researchers understand the passion that most people in education have for kids, and they share that, they would be welcome in most schools.”

He speaks from experience. He recently opted in to participate in a study investigating the core cognitive capacities of the brain, also referred to as executive function. Garber’s research partner is Melina Uncapher, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, and CEO of the Institute for Applied Neuroscience. Garber says Uncapher shares his team’s passion for students, and holds his school’s goals front and center.

In 2016, Uncapher invited the district to participate in a two-year, National Science Foundation-funded executive function study. She is part of a team of researchers from three universities conducting the study, which principals from nine district schools opted in to and includes around 1,000 third, fifth, and seventh grade student participants.

In contrast to traditional notions of distant relationships between schools and “ivory tower” researchers, Uncapher and Santa Clara staff say they have benefitted immensely from their work together. The key: a collaborative, ongoing relationship built on trust, reciprocity, and mutual respect.

Below we share recommendations for other researchers and educators interested in working together on a shared research project.

You can also watch the video and download the case study.

Tips for Researchers

  • Develop a trusting, mutual relationship with bidirectional dialogue
  • Visit regularly and inform all stakeholders – principals, teachers, students, and parents – about the study
  • Frame the research in terms of benefits for both the district and for education at large
  • Take care with logistics – aim for minimal disruption
  • Find other ways to “give back” to the school while you are there
  • Share data in a way that is easy to understand

Tips for School Leaders

  • Make sure all stakeholders are on board with the research project
  • Remind teachers and parents why the project is important
  • Take an active role in reviewing early data and asking questions
  • Make sure data gets to all stakeholders and is explained clearly
  • Provide teachers with time to review data and decide how to apply it

About Babe Liberman

Babe is the Research Project Manager at Digital Promise. You can follow her on Twitter at @BabeLiberman.

One Comment

  • Keeping stakeholders involved is critical. I once part of an innovative statewide project. We brought new technology into a school system and found out the superintendent had not told anyone about the project. Next we know, we are having to explain the project to the community at a board meeting. Our presentation was well received but the technology was not. Had we been able to make the same presentation before the technology was implemented, we would have had a chance. Since it was after the fact, our project had no chance of enduring the upset community. We set a policy thereafter to always do a presentation to boards for districts we were working with before moved forward.

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