Research-Practice Partnerships

To build shared knowledge, CASEL’s initiatives combine rigorous research on social and emotional learning (SEL) with practical, actionable findings.

Earlier attention on SEL primarily focused on field-building. Today, we see a need to also strengthen our collective capacities for field testing. Why? Practitioners often find available research is not useful or helpful because researchers are not always focused on answering questions relevant to school districts’ most pressing needs.

Through a research-practice partnership (RPP) model, we aim to investigate the best processes for combining rigorous research methodology with a recognition of practical, actionable findings generated by and for practitioners.

What is our approach to research-practice partnerships?

RPPs offer a unique collaborative experience with a dual benefit: practitioners get the chance to collaborate and participate in research that has meaningful applications for their work, while researchers have access to a rich, “real-time” opportunity to test and assess their hypotheses.

Our approach is grounded in a problem of practice, co-developed with a state education agency, school district, or school education partner and aimed at improving outcomes. Ideally, the partnership is represented by team members with expertise in research and SEL implementation practice, so that the “research” and “practice” components are present in both organizations.

It should foster a dynamic bidirectional relationship between research and practice in which communication and learning goes both ways.

What are we learning?

CASEL co-constructs RPP engagements to uncover new knowledge related to both systemic SEL implementation and how the RPP model can be leveraged to promote educational equity and excellence.

We determined that our work, and the field, would benefit from greater research attention to continuous improvement (CI) and our district and state partnerships uniquely position us to help advance this work.

Continuous improvement model
Continuous improvement model for SEL

CASEL’s continuous improvement model. A structured process for continuous improvement drives high-quality implementation aligned to strategic goals and supports informed decision-making toward equitable learning and development for all youth. This includes collecting, reflecting on, and sharing actionable data regularly to identify needs and create goals and plan.

Many of our initial learnings arose from the process of establishing RPPs to create and nurture these unique partnerships. CASEL has produced a series of briefs documenting those insights to support a shared action research agenda.

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