| Written by Katherine Sadowski
TransformEd works at the intersection of research, policy, and practice in order to support educators and education systems in equipping students with the Mindsets, Essential Skills, and Habits (MESH) that help students succeed. Engaging in thoughtful projects with our partners, which include leading researchers, school leaders, and teachers, is crucial to building our understanding of MESH competencies and of strategies for integrating them meaningfully within schools. In both California and Massachusetts, we are learning how to implement measures of MESH in schools at scale. In the Boston Charter Research Collaborative (BCRC), we are learning how to carry out targeted interventions to improve students’ MESH skills: skills that we know matter, such as growth mindset, self-management, grit, executive function, and working memory.
The BCRC is a unique researcher-practitioner partnership that engages renowned researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Massachusetts Institute of Technology with practitioners from six high-performing charter management organizations from the Boston area in a multi-year collaboration. The BCRC was designed to serve as a source of gold-standard evidence on scalable practices to improve student outcomes within and beyond school and as a model for similar partnerships between practitioners and researchers that efficiently address some of the field’s most pressing evidentiary needs. TransformEd facilitates all collaborative activities, including leading the assessment of six MESH skills, recommending interventions to build MESH skills, advising researchers and practitioners on the implementation of these interventions in schools, and sharing lessons on how to carry out this work with a broad audience, including educators and policymakers nationwide. Through the BCRC, we have the unique opportunity to build deep relationships between research teams, school leaders, and educators alike in order to identify the highest priority needs in schools and collectively design meaningful interventions to address these needs.
Every September –beginning in just a few weeks, and over the next 2-3 years –TransformEd will share a working paper for practitioners and others in the education field interested in learning more about our on-the-ground work to identify the most effective practices to improve students’ cognitive and MESH skills. Our goal is to provide actionable knowledge for practitioners, distilled from rigorous research, which can be implemented at scale within schools. We will also share out lessons learned from engaging in collaborative work across research and practice and will attempt to capture best practices for researchers and educators who similarly wish to combine their expertise to deepen their understanding of evidence-based practices that positively impact student outcomes.
The first working paper of the series will focus on how to launch a successful in-school research collaborative. Building successful working relationships across several diverse organizations, articulating common goals, and creating the enabling conditions to carry out the implementation of rapid-cycle interventions within schools are essential to create a strong foundation for a multi-year partnership.
Not surprisingly, this is very challenging work. It takes time to get the proper pieces in place. How did we do it? What did we learn? Our first paper will share our biggest takeaways from the first year of collaborative work and offer specific recommendations for researchers or practitioners who are considering building similar collaboratives to improve student outcomes.