A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for? – Robert Browning
Long ago, when I was young, Dr. Judith Ramaley described the NSF MSP program as a grand research endeavor. In a way, the program could be seen as a design research effort, based on the proposition that IHE STEM faculty could participate in K-12 STEM education in such a way as to transform it, by transforming the teaching workforce, and the curriculum materials. The Five Key Features emphasized partnerships, rooted in IHE-plus-others collaborations, to increase teacher quality/quantity/diversity, using challenging courses & curricula. Programs interventions were to be based on evidence, and to produce evidence. The evidence among other things would provide a test of the founding proposition, and the embodiment in these Features. It was exciting to imagine so many people working together on such big, open questions. She said, “I have no idea, when NSF connects these dots, what the picture will be. I do know that it will be you who decide…” What an invitation!
But how to do it in concrete terms? Well, there have been lots of models tried over the years. I have always been interested in the ways that people have tried to address the essential question: What can a partnership between research scientists (or mathematicians) and schools actually look like? I am not sure how many different models have really been discovered —not too many, I think; maybe there’s only so many ways to arrange the players on the board.
The Research+Practice Collaboratory’s blog carries a nice short piece, drawing on a 2012 NRC tome Using Science in as Evidence in Public Policy. The focus of that book is on how to get Research into Practice (and also how to get people to do Research that is important for Practice). The blog post talks about three basic strategies for communication between Rs and Ps:
— Translating. “Translation involves turning [research] findings into programs educators can use.”
— Brokering ” involves the filtering, synthesizing, summarizing, and disseminating of research findings in user-friendly packages.”
— Partnering “involves long-term collaborations between researchers, practitioners, and often designers, aimed at transforming teaching and learning in complex, multi-layered educational systems.” Such long-term intermingling is also referred to as “cultural exchange.”
When I first read the NRC book, I immediately wondered: How do the scientists (mathematicians) function in the MSPs? What gets translated, brokered, or passed on in partnership? It seems to me that the MSPs exhibit all three of these strategies in varying proportions — but some focus on the culture of science (math), some focus on the content, even though no one denies that culture and content are intrinsically connected.
Questions can be asked about the data that drove the designs, and the data that have emerged about the designs. What aspects of science (math) culture have taken hold in MSP schools, because of th? Where has school culture overwhelmed it, or prevented its taking root? Where has school culture transformed scientists’ or mathematicians’ culture? What content has been exchanged in either direction?
But the bottom line questions for me are, What did you hope for, and why? How close have you gotten? What’s just beyond your grasp — maybe that you couldn’t have imagined when you started?