Research and practice models in education

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Research and practice (R<-->P) models in education refer to frameworks and practice that articulate the relationship between theory and practice.

Roschelle et al. (2011:38) state that “Some fields of science exist for the discovery of knowledge without reference toapplication. Learning scientists, however, have always sought the application of their findings to improve education; our field undertakes an applied or perhaps a pioneering science that combines both application and foundational research(J. S. Brown, 1991). It is a design science or “science of the artificial” (Simon,1996). We often strive to operate in Pasteur’s Quadrant (Stokes, 1997). Hence,publications in an academic journal cannot be the ultimate outcome of our efforts;there must be some external measure of the value of our contributions. Socratessaid that the unexamined life is not worth living. To which we add, the unexamined research program is not worth conducting.”

See also:

The Burkhardt and Schoenfeld typology and model

This section summarizes some thoughts and findings from Burkhardt and Schoenfeld(2003)

Typology of research and practice in education

Model 1: Teachers read research and implement it in their classrooms.

  • Doesn't work since teachers do not have time to read much research, make sense of it, and then use it productively in a classroom. (Magidson, 2002).

Model 2: Summary guides

  • These guides are often produced by either professional organization or support centres. Not very explicit and not enough to be useful.

Model 3: General professional development

  • Long-term professional development for teachers can be effective if text materials provided are consistent. (Briars, 2001; Briars & Resnick, 2000).

Model 4: The policy route.

  • Doesn't work well, since accelerated diagnosis of causes is inevitably speculative, time scales are not effective, policy can outrun the research base, etc. (Dillon, 2003).

Model 5: The long route

  • There can be a productive dialectic between educational research and practice. (E.g. Gardner, 1985; Senk & Thompson, 2002).)
  • Time scale for substantial R<-->P impact in this case was 25 years, and that evidence on the real impact of such curricula is just beginning to accumulate.

Model 6: Design experiments.

  • “Design experiments represent a much-needed melding of research and practice. Typically, however, they embody only the early ("alpha") stages of the design and refinement process” (Burkhardt and Schoenfeld, 2003: 4)
  • See design-based research

A model for effective R<-->P

  1. Robust mechanisms for taking ideas from laboratory scale to widely used practice.
  2. Norms for research methods and reporting that are rigorous and consistent, resulting in a set of insights and/or prototype tools on which designers can rely. The goal, achieved in other fields, is cumulativity (p. 5)
  3. A reasonably stable theoretical base
  4. Teams of adequate size to grapple with large tasks, over the relatively long time scales required for sound work
  5. Sustained funding to support the R<-->P process on realistic time scales
  6. Individual and group accountability for ideas and products

We could summarise this as a call for more use-based research (top/right) in Pasteur's quadrant (Stokes, 1997). “Our point is that the same profitable dialectic between theory and practice can and should occur (with differing emphases on the R&D components) from the initial stages of design all the way through robust implementation on a large scale.” (Burkhardt and Schoenfeld, 2003: 5)

The pasteur quadrant

James Pellegrino (2001), suggests defining research in Pasteur's quadrant (Stokes, 1997). “Stokes maps research in a two-dimensional space with research being low to high in terms of its pursuit of general theoretical principles, and low to high in terms of its attempt to solve practical problems. Pasteur's work serves as the prototype for research that operates at the high end of each scale. His work typifies the high-high quadrant. The contrast quadrants are named after Bohr, whose work was high on theory but low on application, and Edison, whose work was low on theory but high on application. The final quadrant, defined by being low on both scales, remains unnamed. I surmise that this is the area where many doctoral studies belong. Besides, who would like to have a quadrant named after them which implies that one's work has neither practical nor theoretical value?”

The Pasteur quadrant (Stokes, 1997)
not science science
applied Edison (invention) Pasteur (both)
not applied PhD students ;) Bohr (pure theory)

Linking Rigor with Relevance

A tension exists between educational practitioners and researchers, which is often attributed to their dichotomous and often times polarizing professional ideologies or Discourse communities. When determining what works in education, researchers tend to emphasize evidence-based practices (EBPs) supported by research that is rigorous and internally valid, whereas practitioners tend to value practice-based evidence (PBE) that is relevant and externally valid. The authors argue that these separate mindsets stem from the classical view of research as being either rigorous or relevant. In his canonical Pasteur’s Quadrant, Stokes (1997) proposed that rigor and relevance are complementary notions that, when merged, further the production, translation, and implementation of instructional practices that are both rigorous (i.e., evidence-based) and relevant(i.e., practice-based). The authors propose educational design research (EDR) and communities of practice (CoPs) as frameworks through which to realize the promise of Pasteur’s quadrant.

(Smith et al. 2013: 147)

Smith et al. (2013:152) reconceptualize Stokes quadrant in the following way:

Quadrant Model of Scientific Research (figure redrawn)
Quest for


Yes Bohrs Quandrant (Knowledge)

Purpose: To systematically generate reliable and rigorous EPBs

Key Words: internal validity

Pasteurs Quadrant (Use-Based)

Purpose: To merge "know what" (EBP) with "know how" (PBE)

Key Words: internal + external validity, collaboration, translation of research to practice

No Unestablished Practices Quadrant (Speculation)

Purpose: To persuade without the need for objective data

Keywords: face validity, conjecture, anecdote, conventional wisdom

Edison's Quadrant (Know-How)

Purpose: To generate and improve PBE within real world contexts

Key Words: exteranl validity, action research, data-driven, effectiveness

  No Yes
Consideration of use?

Unlike most other adaptations of Stokes' model, this model also conceptualizes the lower left quandrant: “This quadrant re- flects Galbraith’s (1958) concept of conventional wisdom—ideas or explanations that, though widely held, are not examined in any meaningful way and are therefore oftentimes inaccurate.” (Smith et al. 2013:152).

John R. Feussner, in a talk (retrieved Jan 2014), presented a more dynamic module that visualized the interplay between Stokes 3 types of research and understanding / technology.

Feussner's revised model of Stokes (redrawn)


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