Exploring the Use of Evidence to Reform Practice in Community College
The use of evidence-based research to shape professional practice has become an important focus in the field of education. Researchers have expressed concern that decision-makers and practitioners take action without being sufficiently informed by research (Nutley, Walter, & Davies, 2003; Hemsley-Brown & Sharp, 2003). To understand the obstacles to research use among practitioners, researchers must first explore the types of information those practitioners access and ultimately use. Through interviews, observations, and document analysis, this case study reveals the underlying processes by which community college faculty and administrators define, interpret, and utilize evidence in their everyday practice. Study findings show that participants rarely access research; they have a collective preference for non-systematic information that is easily operationalized and modified, thereby making it ready for classroom implementation. Findings also suggest that for a community college to maintain a systematic process of inquiry, it is critical for the institution to adopt an infrastructure that allows for the provision of accurate, timely, and comprehensible data without political agendas. In light of the findings reported herein, this study has significant implications for bridging the gap between research and practice. Specifically, it demonstrates the importance of teaching practitioners how to interpret research, contextualize research, and align it with educators' practical concerns. This study additionally highlights the role of organizational climate in the use of data-driven decision making. Both researchers and practitioners can utilize the findings produced by this study, as it facilitates (a) an understanding of the role systematic information plays in refining educational practices, and (b) the development of interventions to promote the use of such evidence.