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Research Schools Will Directly Link Research and Practice

As part of a new faculty research effort called Research Schools, Professor Kurt Fischer hopes to bridge the gap between research and practice, and build a new foundation for promoting strong, useful educational research.

Through Research Schools, Fischer wants to create a model collaboration between a school and a university based on two-way interaction between research and practice. Ultimately, the goal is for research to directly affect the education process, and at the same time, for educational issues to shape the research agenda. Fischer will work closely with neurologist and neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, a professor at the University of Southern California with a strong commitment to building the research-practice relationship.

“The goal of this program is to build a new kind of school-university partnership that provides a solid, long-term foundation for meaningful connection of research and practice,” Fischer says. “In the same way that teaching hospitals ground biological research in medical practice, Research Schools will ground educational research in school practice.”

In November, an initial workshop held at the Ross School in East Hampton, NY — the first slated research school — focused on establishing a core group of scientists and educators capable of integrating research and practice and who are committed to working together on the development of the research school model. The Ross School finds HGSE working with the Steinart School of Education at New York University (NYU) to establish the research school model.

“I see a clamor on one hand for a more intimate, reciprocal, and respectful relationship between scholars based in universities and folks working day-to-day in schools,” said Professor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, codirector of immigration studies at NYU with Professor Carola Suárez-Orozco. “The forefront of this fundamental contribution will really define the ethos of how schools of education go about their work,”

Professors Suárez-Orozco attended the Ross School workshop in November, along with HGSE Lecturers Terrance Tivnan and David Rose, Professor Howard Gardner, doctoral students Zachary Stein and Katie Heikkinen, and alumni Mary Helen Immordino-Yang and Jin Li.

“The Ross Schools constitute a major attempt to envision schools for the 21st century. The three current sites serve very different populations: immigrant children in Stockholm, inner city children in lower Manhattan, and a large middle class (though not affluent) population on Long Island,” Gardner says. “Despite these differences, the schools share a vision, which includes a curriculum grounded in cultural history, considerable interdisciplinary work, individualized attention, and a large space for artistic and other projects. Clearly the schools are not marching to the edicts of No Child Left Behind.”

At the workshop, Gardner led a discussion on ethical issues with Ross School teachers and staff, as well as education researchers. “The Ross Schools hope to be pioneers in the intelligent and ethical use of biological measures of learning and engagement,” he says. “I was gratified by the sophistication of the discussion and the determination to sort issues out thoroughly before any research is undertaken.”

During a sabbatical next semester, Fischer will focus on building the research school model at the Ross Schools (the Ross School in East Hampton and the Ross Global Academy in Manhattan). He is also working with the Landmark School in Beverly, Mass., which teaches students with language-based learning disorders.

Doctoral student Zachary Stein, who researches the philosophy of education, is interested in watching this effort evolve.

“It’s intriguing to me philosophically as an alternative way of conceiving ethical research,” Stein says. “It may end up generating better knowledge. It will affect the way teachers understand themselves and could create a sense that they aren’t just the consumers, but participating in the production of knowledge.”

“The goal of this program,” according to Fischer, “is to build a new kind of school-university partnership that provides a solid, long-term foundation for meaningful connection of research and practice. In the same way that teaching hospitals ground biological research in medical practice, Research Schools will ground educational research in school practice.”