One of the things that excited me most about coming to Duke was the amount of research being done on campus, from theoretical physics to biological
Doing research in schools is particularly challenging because it includes so many parties. The research goals must align with the school district’s priorities, collaboration must occur with the teachers, administrators and researchers about the design of the study and feasibility of implementations, and there must be cooperation from the students who are often young children unaware of the research going on.
Ultimately, the core role of schools is to educate children. Thus, in order to conduct research, the team needs to find a way to provide a clear benefit to schools for participation and make sure of protecting instruction time, reducing the burden on teachers.
The main purpose of the panel was to help Duke researchers better understand how to effectively interact and conduct research in schools. This was very well reflected in the four panelists Amy Davis, Cherry Johnson, Michele Woodson, and Holle Williams who each gave short, individual presentations.
Essentially, the goal of a school is to provide high-quality education to the students. So to conduct research, researchers must find a way to make their goals applicable to the teachers.
Davis, the coordinator of grants, research, and development in Durham Public Schools explained that because of their large minority population, researchers often want to partner with them. Davis explained that researchers should strive to work collaboratively in a way that will yield what the researcher needs but also benefit the school. The focus of the teachers and administrators is not on research and they are not experts in things like research design.
She urged researchers to first reach out to her because she knows which schools would be a viable fit and can help provide the language to talk directly to them. Furthermore, she addressed that researchers sometimes need to have the flexibility to alter the research design when working in schools.
Johnson, the Director of Research and Grant Development in Johnston County Public Schools began by explaining how her district is driven by principles of relationships, relevance, and innovation.
She added that they are “always interested in collab opportunities between universities and JCPS.”
However, studies that can aid in furthering their priorities, namely innovation, teacher recruitment and social and emotional learning will have a higher likelihood of being conducted successfully.
What makes the county so unique is that they are almost two districts within one.
“We still have notable lines between the haves and have nots,” Johnson added referring to large the socioeconomic differences between the Raleigh commuters and farm families.
To address some of these challenges, JCPS are participating in many partnerships with universities like NC State, UNC and Duke including a study with Dr. Leslie M. Babinski, associate research professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy.
Ultimately, university research is not a school district’s top priority. However, Woodson added that if the research has the ability to aid the school in accomplishing their goals then
The last speaker was Holle Williams the Director of Main Campus Institutional Review Board at Duke University. Most schools require the approval of Duke’s IRB, which aims to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects. Williams explained that their goal is to understand the intent of the researcher’s project.
“We want to make sure that what you are doing, what you are contemplating meets the definition of research” Williams stated.
Understanding intent allows then to distinguish research from other kinds of projects where research can help the school but also must contribute to the universal knowledge of a given education based topic.
A big emphasis of the talk was open communication. Both the school representatives and director of IRB highlighted that in order to most efficiently carry out a research project, the researchers should make sure to reach out to both the schools as well as main campus IRB. Through effective communication, strong partnerships can be built between the Duke community and local schools to conduct research that benefits both parties.
Post by Anna Gotskind