By now, “follow the science” is in contention for the most popular phrase of 2020. But research and data aren’t just relevant for communities trying to stay safe during a pandemic. In education, advancing research-based practices can be the difference between a student falling through the cracks or beating the odds to get a great education.
Grassroots education activists rely on data to inform their demands and rally their communities, so researchers, scholars and policy wonks can’t afford to operate in silos or ivory towers. We know that we can’t fight for our children’s future without good data, so for those responsible for collecting and reporting that data, this means that your obligations must go beyond simply crunching the numbers and finishing the report.
Get Rid of the Jargon
It shouldn’t take a master’s degree to make heads or tails of an education report. To whom are researchers most obligated: other researchers, or the thousands of parents, educators and students on the ground and in the trenches fighting for educational equity?
It does little good to invest our time researching how to improve schools if only scholars can understand the reports. You want your data to do something, right? Cut the jargon. Give your findings some life. Storytelling and narrative writing have proven to be valuable strategies for conveying complex ideas in a way that make people care.
Be Vocal About the Policy Solutions That Work
When you visit a doctor because you’re sick, you expect more than just a summary of your symptoms, right? In most cases, you expect a prescription for some sort of medication or treatment, because just a report alone isn’t enough to fix whatever ails you.
It may not be a perfect analogy, but education reporters would do well to apply this same thinking to activism efforts. Supplying activists with data is great, but developing policy recommendations from your findings is the prescription we really need. Activists can have all the evidence in the world to call out bad legislation and poor decision-making, but without research-based solutions, we run the risk of replacing bad policy with more bad policy. Unless your report illuminates what the road forward could look like, communities may be stuck with more of the same.
Be A Part of the Digital Age
Finally, it’s critical that experts share their research, but not exclusively in peer-reviewed format. Social media, for all its flaws, is one of the most effective tools we have to spur social change in our communities. Don’t be afraid of using graphics, tweets, and banners to share your knowledge. Research doesn’t have to live in an ivory tower.
When experts are responsive on social media, it brings their work back down to Earth where the average parent or teacher can interact meaningfully with it. After all, what is the purpose of research if it isn’t accessible and usable?
Scholars and activists alike want better outcomes for our nation’s students, and there’s never been a better time for us to collaborate. Many hands make the work light. If researchers and activists on the ground can sync up around our common goals more often, everyone stands to benefit.