Researchers and Practitioners in Partnership: Co-Design of a High School Biology Curriculum
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CitationFrumin, Kim. 2019. Researchers and Practitioners in Partnership: Co-Design of a High School Biology Curriculum. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractThe Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), released in April 2013, provide an “unprecedented opportunity to transform science education for all students” (Penuel, Harris & DeBarger, 2015, p.45). However, as history has demonstrated repeatedly, the U.S. public education system does not immediately “snap into alignment” when newly created standards are unveiled (Cohen, Peurach, Glazer, Gates, & Goldin, 2013, p. x-xi). Research-practice partnerships (RPPs) are a promising strategy for developing the necessary infrastructure – of new professional knowledge and skill – to enact new teaching and learning. RPPs are long-term collaborations between teachers, district administrators, and researchers that are organized to investigate problems of practice and solutions for improving schools and school districts (Coburn, Penuel, & Geil, 2013). This two-paper study investigated the impact of participation in the Inquiry Hub (iHub), an RPP currently focused on co-designing a student-centered, NGSS-aligned, ninth grade biology curriculum. The iHub is a partnership of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder working with teachers and district administrators from Denver Public Schools. Investigating the organizational level, the first paper posits that some research-practice partnerships create a “niche reform” in that they operate within a protected and bounded space and target to change part, but not all, of the school district. This study determined that the following three practices enabled this partnership to nurture and sustain its novel and specialized scope: (1) inter-organizational meeting routines to promote ongoing communication, (2) informal professional support to deepen trust, and (3) developing and using shared tools to build institutional memory. The second paper examines the level of the individual RPP participant - the teachers, district administrators, and researchers - and finds that iHub participants experienced an expansion of personal identity and increase in professional renewal. Teachers, district administrators, and researchers were energized by the RPP collaboration, and participation affirmed their desire to do this work over the long-term. By developing a broader evidence base of where, when, how, and under what conditions RPPs are viable and effective, the field of education will deepen its understanding of a promising approach to transforming education for all students -- and teachers, district administrators, and researchers.
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