Closing the Research-to-Practice Gap

April 27, 2022

Key Takeaway:

Practitioner journal articles are one way teachers can access the most current research and evidence-based best practices. Research suggests that educators prefer reading short articles written from a practitioner perspective that highlight elements such as implementation steps and application vignettes. These bite-sized articles can help address the research-to-practice gap in this field. —Ayla Reau 

Research-to-Practice Gap

A research-to-practice gap exists within the field of education, and it should be a “professional concern that instructional practices that have strong evidence bases to support their use in schools are not being used or sustained by teachers.” 

In special education, practitioner journal articles act as a tool for disseminating best practices in order to reduce this research-to-practice gap. A practitioner journal generally features content written by people who work/practice in the field, rather than articles written by people who work in academic institutions such as a university. 

Feedback on Practitioner Articles as a Learning Tool

In this research study, Lastrapes and Mooney sought to gauge practitioners’ opinions on these journal articles as a professional learning tool. They surveyed a number of preservice teachers and in-service general education and special education teachers on their use of practitioner journal articles. The following are the major findings: 

  • Participants indicated that while they did not read academic journals, they did read practitioner research articles. 
  • On average, teachers read eight of these articles a year. 
  • The articles are most often accessed from online search engines, university library databases, or colleagues.
  • There was a clear preference for shorter articles written from a practitioner perspective that included “real application vignettes and graphics highlighting student outcome and implementation fidelity data.”

The results also suggest that there is a further need to explore the makeup and delivery of practitioner journal articles. 

First, “different practitioner journal article purposes may warrant distinctive designs.” In knowledge articles whose purpose is to help teachers gain knowledge, elements such as the “definition and implementation steps were considered most important.” In comparison, implementation articles, whose purpose is to assist in implementation, implementation steps and helpful hints were viewed as essential. Implementation steps were the one element that was favored in both types of articles, while visuals were the element ranked lowest across both types. 

Secondly, there was a preference for a more personal presentation style to these articles. Participants preferred more personal phrasing approaches, such as “I have successfully used…,” over the more traditional research journal reporting “research has shown that…,” indicating a desire to read content written through the eyes of a teacher/practitioner.

It is also important to acknowledge that the following limitations were mentioned: 

  • Respondents to the survey came from a sample of university and public school populations in the south and southwestern United States.
  • The “collected data remain respondent perception data and have yet to be empirically tested to determine if practitioner article element change impacts professional knowledge or skill gain.”

Summarized Article:

Renée E. Lastrapes & Paul Mooney (2021) Teachers’ Use and Perceptions of Research-to-Practice Articles, Exceptionality, 29:5, 375-389, DOI: 10.1080/09362835.2020.1772068

Summary by: Ayla Reau—Ayla is excited to help continue to grow the MARIO Framework, seeing the potential for it to impact all students across any educational context.

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