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  • Writer's pictureMatthew B. Courtney, Ed.D.

Expanding the Impact of Innovations with Research Practice Partnerships

As we work to become evidence-based improvers, there is one model that needs to be on your radar: the Research Practice Partnership (RPP). This model brings together researchers and practitioners in a long-term collaboration aimed at improving educational environments and student achievement. In this blog, we delve into what RPPs are, why they are beneficial for educational leaders, how to find the right research practice partners, and the mutual benefits of such partnerships. We also explore some red flags to watch for to ensure the partnership is the right fit.

What is a Research Practice Partnership?

A Research Practice Partnership is a collaboration between educational researchers and practitioners, such as school districts or individual schools, focused on solving practical problems through rigorous research. These partnerships are structured around a shared agenda, prioritizing mutual benefit and sustainability. Unlike traditional research models, RPPs are designed to be iterative and flexible, adapting to the evolving needs of the educational environment while focusing on producing actionable findings. This approach allows for research that is not only contextually relevant but also immediately applicable, creating a dynamic pathway for integrating academic insights into daily educational practices.

The strength of RPPs lies in their commitment to ongoing collaboration. Instead of one-off projects or studies, these partnerships are characterized by their long-term orientation, which helps build trust and mutual understanding between researchers and practitioners. This sustained interaction ensures that research questions are deeply rooted in actual educational challenges and that the findings are translated into practice in meaningful and impactful ways.

Why Should Educational Leaders Engage in Research Practice Partnerships?

Engaging in a Research Practice Partnership offers educational leaders a unique opportunity to tackle the specific challenges their schools face with the backing of empirical research and methodological expertise. These partnerships provide access to research resources that can be costly or difficult for school districts to obtain on their own, such as advanced data analysis tools or expertise in conducting large-scale studies. By collaborating with researchers, educational leaders can ensure that the interventions they implement are not only innovative but are also backed by scientifically valid findings.

RPPs foster a culture of evidence-based decision-making within educational settings. This culture helps in promoting transparency and accountability, as decisions are made based on data and proven outcomes rather than intuition or tradition. Engaging in these partnerships also sends a strong message to stakeholders, including parents, teachers, and funding bodies, that the education system is serious about improving student outcomes and is willing to invest in scientifically sound methods to do so.

How to Find a Research Practice Partner

Finding the right research practice partner starts with identifying the specific needs and goals of your educational institution. Leaders should consider what areas of practice they are looking to improve and what challenges they need help addressing. Once these priorities are clear, the search can begin for academic institutions or research organizations that have a focus or track record in these areas. Attending academic conferences, networking with other educational leaders, and participating in educational forums can provide valuable connections and insights into potential partners.

It’s also important to look for partners who have a history of collaborative projects and are open to the iterative, cooperative nature of RPPs. Ideally, these partners should share similar values and visions for educational improvement. Establishing initial contact to discuss potential collaboration should be approached thoughtfully, ensuring that both parties have a clear understanding of the expectations and commitments involved.

Two-Way Benefits of Research Practice Partnerships

The benefits of RPPs are two-fold. For researchers, these partnerships provide access to real-world laboratories where they can test theories and gather rich data that might not be available through other means. This direct engagement with practitioners helps ensure that their research remains grounded in practical reality and enhances the relevance and impact of their work.

For practitioners, the benefits include gaining insights into evidence-based strategies and interventions that have been tailored to their specific context. This can lead to more effective educational practices and improved student outcomes. Practitioners also benefit from the professional development opportunities that arise from working closely with research experts, enhancing their own understanding of research methodologies and data interpretation.

Red Flags: How to Know if a Partnership is Right for You

However, not every partnership is destined for success. Certain red flags may indicate that a proposed partnership might not be a good fit. One major red flag is a mismatch in goals or expectations between the research and practice partners. If the research agenda does not align closely with the practical needs of the educational institution, the collaboration is likely to face challenges. Another red flag is insufficient commitment to the partnership from either party, which can lead to a lack of sustained effort and resources necessary to make the partnership productive.

Additionally, poor communication and lack of trust can severely undermine the effectiveness of an RPP. It’s crucial for both parties to establish clear communication channels and to build trust through regular updates and transparency. Without these, the partnership may struggle to achieve its goals.


Research Practice Partnerships represent a powerful model for driving educational innovation and improvement. By fostering close collaborations between researchers and practitioners, these partnerships ensure that educational interventions are both evidence-based and contextually relevant. For educational leaders looking to make informed, impactful changes in their schools, engaging in an RPP can be an excellent strategy. However, careful consideration must be given to choosing the right partner and maintaining a healthy, productive collaboration to truly reap the benefits of this approach.


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