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Podcasting as a Dissemination Method for aResearcher-Practitioner PartnershipDavid Bryant Naff, Virginia Commonwealth UniversityAbstractResearcher-practitioner partnerships (RPPs) present opportunities to conduct studiesthat support evidence-based decision-making for participating school districts. Doingthis work effectively requires ongoing input from key stakeholders, attention to thelocal impact of the research, and targeted dissemination to audiences who can benefitfrom the findings. Maximizing research use in public education requires attentionto how it is communicated to decision-makers. The present case study of a podcastused as a dissemination method by a metropolitan RPP explores how it potentiallysupported the goals of the partnership and promoted stakeholder engagement withresearch findings. Theoretical and practical implications for RPPs are discussed, aswell as implications for the literature on research use and podcasting as a communication tool in education.Keywords Dissemination; Podcasting; Researcher-practitioner partnershipsIntroductionEducational research has the potential to inform school- and district-level decisionmaking to the benefit of educators, students, families, and communities. Two keyDavid Bryant Naff. (2020). Podcasting as a Dissemination Method for a Researcher-PractitionerPartnership. International Journal of Education Policy & Leadership 16(13). URL: le/view/923 doi: 10.22230/ijepl.2020v16n13a923IJEPL is a joint publication of PDK International, the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University, theCollege of Education and Human Development at George Mason University, and the University of Delaware.By virtue of their appearance in this open access journal, articles are free to use, with proper attribution, ineducational and other non-commercial settings 90 days after initial publication. Copyright for articles publishedin IJEPL is retained by the authors. More information is available on the IJEPL website: http://www.ijepl.orgIJEPLVolume 16(13)2020

considerations in promoting the use of educational research include the strength ofnetworks between universities and school district partners and the methods used tocommunicate findings. While research is traditionally shared through reports (oftenin academic journals), school district leaders and educational practitioners may notalways have the bandwidth for in-depth engagement with the results. This may limitthe potential for applying them to practice. Additionally, it may be beneficial to accesstakeaways throughout the duration of a study rather than waiting for the publicationof a final report. This study explores the use of a podcast as a dissemination methodfor a researcher-practitioner partnership (RPP). Using a quantitative case study designexamining stakeholder survey and podcast access data, this article investigates thepotential benefits and limitations of using this dissemination method by a midAtlantic RPP with seven school district partners.Three RPP goals align with the purpose of the podcast: 1) to conduct and disseminate community-engaged research that has direct and indirect impacts on criticalyouth, school, and community outcomes, 2) to build community and social networks between university units, school districts, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners, and 3) to contribute to the local, state, and national policy and scholarlydialogue on education. With these goals in mind, this study explores three researchquestions about how the podcast potentially supports the work of the RPP:IJEPL 16(13) 2020NaffPodcasting as aDisseminationMethodResearch Question 1: Does the podcast help RPP stakeholders toengage with its research?Research Question 2: Does the podcast strengthen relationships andnetworks within the RPP?Research Question 3: Does the podcast support the expansion ofthe audience within and beyond the RPP to engage with its research?“Stakeholders” in this case refers to the various individuals invested in advancingpublic schools at the university or partnering school districts in the RPP. In launchingthis podcast, the RPP sought to readily engage local audiences and join broader conversations about issues in public Pre-Kindergarten to Grade (PK-12) education.Literature reviewEffective school improvement requires the thoughtful application of research. RPPsprovide structures whereby stakeholders from public PK–12 education and academic scholarship collaborate on addressing key issues facing schools (Penuel,Coburn, & Gallagher, 2013). Increasingly, funders of educational research initiatives have recognized the value of these partnerships (Chambers & Azrin, 2013;Goldstein, McKenna, Barker, & Brown, 2019; Snow, 2014). This is perhaps attributable to the potential for conducting meaningful, impact-oriented research inpartnership with practitioners well positioned to implement it. As HowardGoldstein, Meaghan McKenna, Robert Barker, and Tracye Brown (2019) reflected,RPPs do not simply translate research into practice but instead facilitate trustingand productive partnerships between researchers and practitioners, leading to research objectives that align with the priorities of public educators, students, andresearchers alike.2

RPPs often share essential elements that justify and maintain their existence, aswell as some common challenges. Key foundational principals to RPPs includebuilding and maintaining trusting relationships; conducting rigorous, informativeresearch; supporting the strategic goals and building the research capacity of partnering organizations; and generating knowledge that can inform improvements ineducational practices and outcomes (Henrick, Briggs, Davidson, Herlihy, Hill,Farrell, & Allen, 2017). Common challenges facing RPPs include honoring the priorities and perspectives of multiple stakeholder groups and effectively communicating and implementing research findings in a practitioner setting (Goldstein etal., 2019). Ideally, RPPs are long-standing, trusting partnerships with an ongoingcommitment to conducting relevant research with strong potential to inform policies and practices that positively impact students and educators. In order to meetthis standard, it is important to incorporate accessible dissemination methods thatpromote research use.For more than 25 years, the RPP featured in this article has served local schooldistricts in a mid-Atlantic metropolitan area. The information-dissemination methods for these studies have previously included research briefs shared with the planning committee and summative research reports available through the partnershipwebsite, which is publicly accessible. While these methods have made findingsavailable to school districts and the broader public in written format, the partnershiprecently sought to find new and engaging ways to share updates throughout research studies. As a part of this expanded dissemination effort, the RPP launched anew podcast in 2017. The following quantitative case study of this podcast discussesthe rationale for this dissemination method as it aligns with the goals and principlesof the RPP, as well outcomes from its first three years of existence. To set the groundwork for establishing this case study, it is necessary to understand the structure andpurpose of RPPs, outline common assumptions of research use in public education,and explore existing empirical evidence of the apparent benefits of podcasting ineducation.IJEPL 16(13) 2020NaffPodcasting as aDisseminationMethodResearch dissemination and useA key element of an effective RPP is its ability to disseminate research findings to itspartnering stakeholders in a form that is accessible and able to inform their practice(Penuel, Allen, Coburn, & Farrell, 2015). This begins with identifying research topicsthat are of interest to partnering school districts to promote findings that are relevantto practitioner needs (Goldstein et al., 2019). Often, dissemination within an RPP involves written research reports, although this is increasingly occurring through onlinemedia platforms (Voithofer, 2005). There is growing scholarship around research usein education, with researchers studying the extent and purpose of research implementation in schools as well as attitudes by practitioners and policymakers toward researchbased information (for an in-depth literature review on research use in education, seeDagenais, Lysenko, Abrami, Bernard, Ramde, & Janosz, 2012). Understanding howeducational practitioners utilize research is of the utmost importance to RPPs, whichmust remain mindful of how research is disseminated and maximize its potential usageby key stakeholders.3

Furthermore, RPPs should consider the assumptions about research use putforth in the conceptual framework by Elizabeth Farley-Ripple, Henry May, AllisonKarpyn, Katherine Tilley, and Kalyn McDonough (2018) outlining the connectionsbetween educational research and practice. The first assumption is that the basis ofeducational decision-making should be research. RPPs are based on a shared beliefthat collaboratively conceived and executed research has the potential for informingeducational practice and impacting educator and student outcomes. The second assumption is that there is a clear relationship between research and practice, and thatresearch can be interpreted differently in different contexts. RPPs must remain attuned to the contexts they serve, recognizing that findings will be understood, valued,and implemented differently by various stakeholder groups. The third assumptionis that the definition of research “use” is inconsistent in education, as decision-makersfor school districts may use research to resolve a discrete problem or gradually reorient their thinking. The authors (Farley-Ripple et al., 2018) further advocate thatmaking research “usable” often requires additional resources and efforts toward dissemination. Following this logic, RPPs should consider creative and accessible methods for disseminating findings to their members. Podcasting presents such anopportunity.IJEPL 16(13) 2020NaffPodcasting as aDisseminationMethodPodcastingPodcasts are digital audio programs focused on various topics. They are typicallyavailable for free download, and they are becoming increasingly popular as a way toconsume information. In 2008, there were approximately 20,000 podcasts on iTunes(Morgan, 2015). By 2013, Apple estimated that there were approximately 250,000podcasts in over 100 languages with over eight million published episodes and morethan a billion subscribers (Friedman, 2013). In 2008, roughly nine percent of U.S.citizens over the age of 12 reported listening to a podcast in the previous month. By2016, that number grew to 21 percent (Vogt, 2016). While higher education wasamong the top-20 most popular podcast topics in 2015, issues in public PK–12 education were not (Morgan, 2015).Research on podcast use in education most commonly focuses on its use for facilitating student learning. Mohammad Merhi (2015) found in a survey of over 300college students that the use of podcasting in their classes tended to be associatedwith higher self-efficacy and students often considered them to be advantageous totheir learning. Doris Bolliger, Supawan Supanakorn, and Christine Boggs (2010)found that the use of podcasting by college students was positively associated withtheir scores on all four subscales of the Instructional Materials Motivation Survey(attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction). Khe Foon Hew (2009) foundthat students perceived it to be beneficial when their professors provided lectures inpodcast format and indicated that their likelihood of attending class did not diminishwhen gaining access to audio recordings. Collectively, these studies suggest that podcasts can serve as a useful tool for promoting learning.Brent Thoma, Heather Murray, Simon Huang, William Milne, Lynsey Martin,Christopher Bond, Rohit Mohindra, Alvin Chin, Calvin Yeh, William Sanderson, andTeresa Chan (2018) offered a rare look into the use of podcasting in promoting re-4

search access and readership. The authors studied articles in the Canadian Journal ofEmergency Medicine that received promotion through podcasts or infographics compared to a control group of articles that received no promotion. They measured readership using Almetric scores for each of the articles and found that articles promotedusing a podcast had higher readership than those promoted by infographics or notat all. In a literature review on the use of podcasting in education, Simon Heilesen(2010) found that while there is a lack of research on the impact of podcasting onstudent learning, there does seem to be extensive evidence that students find thismedium to be a helpful supplement to their studies. Taken together, this evidencesuggests that podcasts have the potential for facilitating access to information andstimulating interest, but that there is still opportunity to better understand how theyimpact the listener’s understanding of the content. The case study presented hereinexplores how a metropolitan RPP introduced podcasting into its dissemination effortsin 2017, how this contributed to growth in the RPP, and how key stakeholders perceived the value of the podcast in aiding their access to and understanding of research findings.IJEPL 16(13) 2020NaffPodcasting as aDisseminationMethodCase study RPP and podcastThe RPP discussed in this case study is a decades-long collaboration between a midAtlantic urban university school of education and seven school districts in the surrounding metropolitan area. Most RPPs involve a partnership between a universityand a single agency, such as one large school district (Goldstein et al., 2019).Prominent examples include the University of Chicago Consortium on SchoolResearch, the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, and the BaltimoreEducational Research Consortium. While the RPP featured in this case study servesfewer total students and educators on average than these large consortia, it experiences a somewhat unique challenge of brokering relationships with seven differentschool districts across urban, rural, and suburban contexts.Goldstein et al. (2019) outlined several challenges that RPPs often encounter,including maintaining positive relationships, navigating differences between practitioners and researchers, combatting perceptions of the partnership activities beingburdensome, and producing research overlooking the realities of public educationsettings. The RPP profiled here works to overcome these challenges through the collaborative selection of its studies, the composition of its study teams, and the methods by which it disseminates findings. A leadership council comprised ofsuperintendents, research directors, and other school district leaders convenes quarterly to discuss issues of interest and to vote on studies, ensuring that they are relevant to their needs. Studies are led by faculty from the university who serve asprincipal investigators and are supported by doctoral students who serve on the research team. Critically, these studies are also informed by study teams comprised ofrepresentatives from each of the seven member school districts who meet monthlyto inform the research design, support data collection, help interpret findings, andvet recommendations to ensure that they are practical and actionable at the schoollevel. According to Goldstein et al. (2019), RPPs must strike a balance between“practitioner knowledge and experience and evidence-based knowledge and expe-5

rience resulting from research” (p. 41). The collaborative research approach of theRPP profiled here seeks to provide such a balance between research and practice.Additionally, the RPP works to enhance relationships and lessen barriers to research use on participating school districts through multimodal dissemination efforts,including accessible reporting, an annual stakeholder conference, webinars, and apodcast. The RPP established a podcast in 2017 as a method for communicating takeaways from research throughout the duration of a study, but also as a space for continually connecting researchers and school district partners in productive dialogue.In this way, the podcast serves as a method of boundary crossing, defined by WiliamPenuel, Anna-Ruth Allen, Cynthia Coburn, and Caitlin Farrell(2015) as transitionsand interactions between researchers and educational practitioners into spaces wherethey may be unfamiliar. For example, this might include a researcher engaging withschool district personnel to learn about their practices and better inform the potentialrecommendations they can make from educational research, or a school district leaderpartnering with a researcher on a manuscript or conference presentation. The casestudy podcast profiled in this article is built around the idea of providing opportunitiesfor these types of productive interactions (or boundary crossings) to occur.In its first three years, the podcast has featured roundtable discussions withmembers of research and study teams, individual interviews with various stakeholders in public PK–12 education, and a special series connected with the annual stakeholder conference profiling relevant initiatives in each of the member school districts.Roundtable discussions included brainstorming descriptions of the problem that theresearch is attempting to address, overviews of the literature and emerging researchquestions, data collection methodology, results and interim findings, conclusions,and future directions for RPP studies. Episodes have explored several critical issues,including racial disproportionality in exclusionary school discipline, designing responsive professional development for rapidly diversifying schools, college access,and teacher morale and retention. The content of these episodes reflects topics identified as important by leaders and practitioners in area school districts, aligning withstudies conducted by the RPP.IJEPL 16(13) 2020NaffPodcasting as aDisseminationMethodInfrastructure and implementationA researcher for the RPP spends approximately half a workday per week (10% effort)on podcast planning, communication, production, and dissemination. Recordingoccurs through two methods. The primary method is the use of an audio recordingstudio provided by the university at no additional cost to the RPP. This studio includes a soundproof space as well as access to professional microphones and recording equipment. The secondary method is a handheld recorder with attachable lapelmicrophones. This method is required when conducting interviews with participantsat locations outside of the university. Because the production quality tends to bestronger through the primary method, the RPP typically requested that participantscome to the university recording studio. Publishing podcast episodes for dissemination required a professional account with an online platform that provides a reallysimple syndication (RSS) feed, allowing for dissemination through multiple prominent podcast providers, including Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.6

The total approximate annual cost for podcast implementation is 10,000, 98 percent of which is allocated to faculty effort.DisseminationThe RPP profiled in this study defines “dissemination” as any effort to communicatefindings from its research projects executed in collaboration with local school districts.This includes research reports; national, state, and local conference presentations; anannual stakeholder conference hosted by the RPP; professional development workshops in partnering school districts; and a podcast. As discussed in Penuel et al.(2017), universities typically privilege peer-reviewed publication in research journalsfor the purposes of tenure, but in order to maximize the possibility of schools implementing those research findings, it is important to be mindful of how and where theyare disseminated. Penuel et al. (2017) advocate that such efforts should be clear and“jargon-free” (p. 15) with a focus on implications for practice. This aligns with RPPrationale for disseminating findings through podcast episodes that frequently featurerepresentatives from partnering school districts as well as researchers from the university. There is a persistent focus on translating research into practice, and the conversational nature of the episodes helps to reduce the potential for overusing researchjargon. When such terms are introduced, there is an effort to clearly define them forthe listener.All episodes are published on Soundcloud with links embedded on the RPPwebsite to drive traffic, with dissemination occurring primarily through MailChimpemail campaigns and social media (Twitter and Facebook). By producing episodesaligning with RPP studies and engaging in member checking with all participants,the podcast is structured to provide relevant information that is relationally valid formember school districts (Tuck & McKenzie, 2015) with the potential for influencingbroader conversations on critical issues in public PK–12 education. The dissemination of the episodes through accessible channels such as email and social media enhances the potential for promoting these discussions.IJEPL 16(13) 2020NaffPodcasting as aDisseminationMethodConceptual frameworkThe preceding literature and the structure of the profiled RPP inform the conceptualframework for this study, which centrally seeks to understand how the implementationof a podcast for research dissemination was associated with promoting research use ineducational decision-making and strengthening the networks of the RPP. Figure 1 represents how the RPP profiled in this study works to facilitate a symbiotic system thatmaximizes the potential for generating research that has a positive impact on schooland youth outcomes. This framework is informed by the approach the case study RPPdeveloped over time for establishing and maintaining relationships with school districtpartners, identifying relevant research topics, executing studies, and disseminatingfindings. The model seeks to address the typical challenges that RPPs experience outlined by Goldstein et al. (2019), including the mutual commitment of resources tohelp establish trust, stakeholder input in selecting study topics to ensure the relevanceof the research, and minimizing the burden of effectively engaging with the findingsthrough multiple dissemination efforts. This includes a podcast, which also serves as7

a potential space for boundary crossing within the RPP (Penuel et al., 2015), alongwith other efforts to directly connect researchers and educational practitioners (e.g.,study team meetings). These practices allow the system depicted in Figure 1 to work.Figure 1: Conceptual modelConsistent with the purposes of RPPs outlined in the literature, stakeholders inthe RPP profiled here have aligned, mutually beneficial goals (Henrick et al., 2017).School districts engage in the RPP to participate in research that could help informtheir decision-making, and the university school of education engages in the RPP topromote research use in public education. Both the university and school districtsalike decide to commit resources to this effort, recognizing the potential of the RPPto have a positive impact on educators and students through research. In additionto committing resources, member school districts support this effort by carefully selecting research topics of interest to their stakeholders, recommending study teammembers who help guide the research at every step, and informing the recommendations that emerge from the research to ensure that they are practical, actionable,and tied to appropriate resources for implementation. The university school of education strategically allocates the pooled resources of the RPP, identifies faculty andgraduate students to help lead the research studies, engages in ongoing communication with district leaders to keep them informed about progress and to maintaintrusting relationships, and disseminates findings through research reports and othermethods.Within this model, dissemination is a critical component of ensuring that research use in educational decision-making can occur. Studies that are conceived collaboratively with shared relevance in mind have the potential to offer moremeaningful findings to practitioners, but if those findings are not communicated inaccessible ways, they may be less likely to be incorporated into practice (Penuel etal., 2015). Podcasting has shown promise in the literature as a method of communicating information that is nimble, accessible, well-received by listeners, and hasthe potential for promoting learning (Heilesen, 2010). Research on the use of pod-IJEPL 16(13) 2020NaffPodcasting as aDisseminationMethod8

casting as a dissemination method for research findings is limited, meriting furtherstudy on how the podcast implemented by the RPP profiled herein supported theaccessibility of relevant information to stakeholders.The purpose of this case study is to explore the role that podcasting plays in advancing the goals of the RPP, which by extension advance the goals of the backboneuniversity and member school districts. This study contributes to scholarship by offering an empirical exploration of how podcasting can promote research engagementfrom educational practitioners and decision-makers. Furthermore, it contributes to thepractice of RPPs by offering practical guidance for how to establish and integrate a podcast into dissemination efforts and illuminate its reception and use by stakeholders.IJEPL 16(13) 2020NaffPodcasting as aDisseminationMethodMethodThis research employed case study methodology to explore the implementation of apodcast as a dissemination method and its potential association with growth in theRPP. Case studies can be qualitative and/or quantitative, with the goal of offering a robust picture that helps the reader understand the “case” (Stake, 1995; Yazan, 2015),which is a podcast in the current study. They often employ multiple data sources toprovide triangulating evidence in support of answering research questions and establishing validity in the findings (Shareia, 2016; Yin, 2017). The present study employedmultiple data sources (secondary and primary) to answer research questions and explore how the introduction of a podcast as a dissemination method might be associatedwith the development of the RPP over two years. This section will explain the datasources utilized in this study and describe the participants in the podcast. It will conclude with a discussion of the limitations of this study as they inform interpretation ofthe findings.DataThere were two types of data sources (primary and secondary) that offered evidenceof how the podcast potentially supported the goals of the RPP. The primary datasource was an annual survey disseminated to RPP stakeholders. This survey was developed by RPP personnel to evaluate how effectively it had served its mission inthe previous year. It also featured multiple items related to the quality and relevanceof the podcast content to the work of the stakeholder (Appendix A). Additionally,there were items asking specifically about the experiences of episode guests. In 2019,297 potential respondents who were engaged with the RPP in the previous year (e.g.,as a study team member, leadership council member, or conference attendee) received an invitation to complete the survey with a response rate of 27.9 percent (83total responses). This included responses from stakeholders in all seven school districts. Stakeholders were asked if they had listened to or been featured in an episodeof the podcast in the previous year, which was the case for 32 respondents (38.5%).Of those respondents, 10 were teachers, four were school administrators, six werecentral office personnel, four were superintendents or assistant superintendents,three were university faculty members, three were doctoral students, one was an undergraduate student, and one was a community advocate. All seven school districtswere also represented in this sample of respondents.9

Additionally, there were multiple sources of secondary data that offered evidenceof potential impact. First, the number of plays across all platforms for each episodeover three years was explored to indicate the level of interest in each topic as well asthe overall popularity the podcast over time. Second, the location of each play was examined to indicate the reach of the podcast within and beyond the state of the RPP.Finally, the number of research report downloads from the RPP was explored as a pointof comparison for research dissemination. Attendance at the annual conference of theRPP was also included as a supplemental secondary data source. Taken together, thiscollection of primary and secondary data informed the research questions and offeredtriangulating evidence regarding the use of the podcast as a dissemination method.IJEPL 16(13) 2020NaffPodcasting as aDisseminationMethodParticipantsPodcast participants have included educational researchers, policymakers, teachers,administrators, superintendents, and students. They are purposefully selected by RPPpersonnel (often from study teams) to provide diverse viewpoints on the research topicfeatured in an episode, or a member school district recommends them to represent aninitiative or illustrate a theme related to the annual RPP stakeholder conference.Consistent with qualitative research, member checking is a critical component of producing each podcast episode, as the RPP seeks to ensure a credible representation ofpartnering school districts (Guba, 1981). The audio for each episode goes through around of internal peer review with RPP central staff before it is shared with participantsfor feedback and approval. Over three years, the podcast has featured 128 participants.LimitationsWhile

Three RPP goals align with the purpose of the podcast: 1) to conduct and dis-seminate community-engaged research that has direct and indirect impacts on critical . Teresa Chan (2018) offered a rare look into