Center for Practitioner Research

Improving Education and Learning

ul 4.19.13

NCE Deans Message

For many years, NCE programs have fostered reflective practice by teaching methods and providing tools for practitioner research (PR). Practitioner research allows educators to study and reflect on their practice in a systematic way for the purpose of improving student learning outcomes.

In an era when policy makers and the public have demanded increased accountability from schools and educators at all levels, high stakes testing has generally formed the "currency" of that accountability. This approach has had the benefit of forcing society to see and attempt to address inequities in our educational system by identifying and continually reminding us of achievement "gaps" related to race, socio-economic status, disability, and other learner circumstances. However, it has frequently diverted focus from the complexity of what best practice might look like in response to the varied needs of learners in particular learning communities as well as diverting focus from many of the broader goals of education.

The basics that might be captured in standardized tests are important, but so is knowledge that is more difficult to capture in such tests. Standardized tests are limited in what they can tell us about the development of critical thinking and communication skills, the information gathering and evaluation skills that allow for informed citizenship, and other areas of knowledge, skills, and dispositions important to the pursuit of individual and societal health, happiness and productivity. They are also limited in terms of the feedback they can provide about the efficacy of particular educational practices and their relation to the needs of individual learners. Practitioner research impacts learning at the student, classroom, school, and district levels as teacher researchers utilize excellent research practices and connect with one another to provide instruction that is research-based, adapted to the needs of individual learners, and appropriate to the context of particular schools and communities. Well adapted learning environments should support both the content knowledge that is measured in standardized tests as well as the more complex educational goals.

Designing and managing educational environments so that all students will learn requires a high degree of professional knowledge and skill. It requires the ability to accurately diagnose learner characteristics and needs, as well as the ability to draw upon a wealth of pedagogical and content knowledge to design appropriate learning environments. It requires the educator to continually assess student learning and to refine teaching methods and learning environments to meet learner needs. Practitioner research methods provide systematic tools to support and expand the knowledge and skill of educators in these areas.

Practitioner research also has the potential to enhance the public perception of the professionalism of teachers by informing and providing evidence about what professional practice looks like and can accomplish. It further offers a unique scholarly voice to educators, because it is grounded in day-to-day professional practice and particularly sensitive to the needs and characteristics of individual students, classrooms, and communities. Although practitioner research is largely devoted to producing improved learning outcomes within specific educational settings (e.g. a teacher researcher’s classroom), the broad use and dissemination of practitioner research findings has the potential to contribute to our shared understanding of what constitutes best practices in varied educational settings and to inform educational policy at many levels. This authentic research voice for PK-12 educators has been largely missing in both scholarly and policy circles.

Recognizing the importance of this work, National College of Education now proposes to found a center for practitioner research. This center will advocate for practitioner inquiry as an essential form of educational research. The center’s mission will be to: (1) support, promote, nurture, and celebrate the use of practitioner research as a viable means for the enhancement of teaching and learning in schools and other educational organizations, and (2) encourage collaborative scholarship of practitioners within and across educational institutions.

This center will:

  • utilize action research and other research methodologies and reflective practice to inform and reform policy and practice.
  • be a learning organization continually engaged in the reflective practice cycle.
  • mentor and provide resources and training to a broad community of educators in the methods and uses of PR.
  • facilitate collaboration and connections among educators engaged in PR.
  • create multiple means (e.g.: conferences, research forums & roundtables, digital stories, interactive web site that serves as a research clearinghouse, "research friends," and so on), for dissemination and publication of PR.
  • use technology to facilitate examination, dissemination and deliberation of PR projects.
  • set PR research priorities for the College
  • attract grants and funding.

A broad group of faculty across disciplinary boundaries within the College has formed a task force for the development of the center. It is our hope that students, alumni, members of partnering organizations, and others will contribute their voice and talents to the formation of the center.

Locations
  • CHICAGO DOWNTOWN CAMPUS

    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

    122 S. Michigan Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60603
    (888) 658.8632

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    Campus Location
  • ELGIN

    Conveniently located in a fast-growing business district off I-90 and Route 31, NLU Elgin features 10 classrooms with high-tech media equipment; a computer lab with high-speed Internet access; two conference rooms; and comfortable student lounges. Parking is free at this recently remodeled and upgraded teaching site, which now includes wireless Internet access.

    620 Tollgate Road
    Elgin, IL 60123
    (888) 658.8632

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    Campus Location
  • NORTH SHORE

    Opened in the summer of 2006, NLU North Shore at Skokie is a state-of-the-art modern campus located just off the Edens Expressway near the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The campus includes 44 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a walk-in lab in the library; six conference rooms; a public café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; and multiple, comfortable student lounge areas.

    5202 Old Orchard Road
    Skokie, IL 60077
    (888) 658.8632

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    Campus Location
  • LISLE

    Located just minutes from the East-West Tollway (I-88), NLU Lisle features 42 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a separate walk-in lab in the library; a café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; conference rooms; and six comfortable student lounge areas with wireless access.

    850 Warrenville Road
    Lisle, IL 60532
    (888) 658.8632

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    Campus Location
  • WHEELING

    Located in one of Chicago's major northwest suburbs, the newly renovated NLU Wheeling includes 20 classrooms with high-tech media equipment, four conference rooms, four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, large student lounge areas with wireless capabilities and interactive video capabilities, and an extensive research library. The site also houses the university library research collection.

    1000 Capitol Drive
    Wheeling, IL 60090
    (888) 658.8632

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    Campus Location
  • FLORIDA (TAMPA)

    Established in 1988 and located in one of the city's major business districts, NLU's Florida Regional Center serves students in 13 counties in central Florida. In addition to six classrooms, this location features a conference room, a computer lab with high-speed Internet access, an extensive research library and comfortable student lounges.

     

     

    5110 Eisenhower Boulevard
    Suite 102
    Tampa, Florida 33634
    800.366.6581 | www.nl.edu/florida

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    Campus Location
  • WISCONSIN

    NLU's Milwaukee campus has a proud history of serving graduate students in education in southeastern Wisconsin. Nearly one in five certified Wisconsin teachers looks to NLU for graduate education programs – more than any other university in the state. In addition to classrooms with high-tech media equipment, the campus offers a state-of-the-art computer lab with wireless Internet access and an extensive IDS research library.

    12000 West Park Place, Suite 100
    Milwaukee, WI 53224-3007
    414.577.2658

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    Campus Location