Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

33 Opening Plenary Session: Building Capacity and Supporting the Search for Solutions: A New Model for Conducting Research That Makes a Difference

Thursday, January 12, 2012: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Constitution A (Grand Hyatt Washington)
Melissa Roderick, PhD, University of Chicago
The theme of this SSWR conference is “research that makes a difference.” In its short history, variations of this statement – how can research impact policy and practice – is the most commonly recurring theme in SSWR’s annual meeting. One would find the same pattern in research conferences on education and public policy and in the list of priorities of most national research agencies. Yet, to be provocative, the conversation among researchers tends to focus on the question: How can we (the researchers) keep doing our research the way we want to and the way that gets us success in academia while finding a way to, on the side, disseminate the findings? In this address, Dr. Roderick will argue that conducting research that makes a difference requires a fundamental reframing of that question and a new approach. She will characterize four traditional models that have guided how researchers seek to inform policy development and practice and argue that the prevailing approaches fall short. Dr. Roderick will draw on her 20 years of research in the Chicago Public Schools and with the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) to characterize a new model that focuses on building capacity through supporting the search for solutions. To illustrate, she will present a case study of CCSR’s work on the transition to high school. Formalizing lessons learned, she argues that conducting research that makes a difference requires: (1) explicitly connecting research to the core problems facing practitioners and decision makers; (2) paying careful attention to the process by which people learn, assimilate new information and ideas, internalize that information, and connect it to their own problems of practice; and (3) shifting the role of the researcher from outside expert to interactive participant in building knowledge of what matters. In her work in education, this also has meant changing the relationship between research and practice so that the education community sees research not as external to reform but as a resource to look for in ongoing development and the search for solutions.
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