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Selection Criteria for
IWERC’s Research Projects

IWERC research projects should be selected and designed based on:

  1. IMPACT:
      The research can improve the lives of Illinoisans (children and adults) and the state of Illinois as a whole, by producing research findings that tangibly support a defined audience of state educators, policymakers, and institutions. The research emphasizes identifying success stories and building solutions that can be implemented, rather than solely identifying problems or deficits.
  2. EQUITY:
      The research centers the unique experiences and perspectives of diverse populations and communities. The research seeks to provide findings that can promote equity through many processes, ranging from improving systems incrementally, to innovating and re-envisioning systems for all learners, to dismantling fundamentally unjust systems.
      The research is not overly redundant with current or previous Illinois research efforts, but it does seek to replicate, expand, or challenge past research and accepted wisdom.
      The research makes important connections across diverse statewide contexts, especially between rural and urban areas, and between stakeholders working at all levels, from practitioners to policymakers.

Not all projects must meet all 4 criteria, but all should be considered in project selection.

Guidelines for IWERC’s Research Practices

In developing and designing research projects, IWERC will:

1. Build intentional partnerships from the outset, including with other researchers, research participants, and potential end-users of research.
2. Develop research questions not only about programs and factors that predict success, but also about specific mechanisms and features that drive those successes. In practice, this involves multi-stage research and a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches.
3. Consider varied disciplinary and theoretical perspectives on each research topic, especially perspectives outside of education (e.g., theories of expertise development and leadership, behavioral economics, labor-management, and relations) and critical perspectives on race, class, gender, and other areas.
4. Embed rigorous external review at various stages of the research, from research design approval to peer review of research findings.
5. Extend the design of research projects past dissemination to supporting educators, policymakers, and organizations in using our findings (through tools, models, and ongoing communication).
6. Conduct independent policy analysis that looks at what worked, what did not work, for whom, and for what reasons, in service of promoting new policies that work better for more people. Focus these studies on looking forward, rather than backward, and on fostering robust, non-partisan debate.

Characteristics of IWERC’s Research Portfolio

As a whole, IWERC’s research work will need balance across the following areas:

  • Early childhood
  • K-12
  • Postsecondary
  • Workforce
  • Access: Needed programs exist, and barriers to needed programs are reduced.
  • Infrastructure: Programs have adequate resources, human and financial capacity, and other essential supports.
  • Environment: Programs are inclusive, safe, learner-centered, and connected to the learners’ cultures and communities.
  • Instruction: Instruction within programs is engaging, rigorous, relevant, and coherent for students.
  • Learner/Teacher Experience: Individual learners (and instructors) have positive and culturally/personally responsive experiences in a program.
  • Traditional academic outcomes
  • Traditional economic/return-on-investment outcomes
  • Affective and socioemotional outcomes
  • Creativity and innovation outcomes
  • Individual and collective/community outcomes
  • Other outcomes valued by and co-constructed with the communities served
  • 50% short-term “sprints”: Smaller issues that likely require secondary data analysis, surveys, or reviews
  • 50% long-term “marathons”: Big issues that require more complex research designs and/or on-the-ground data collection
  • 50% UI system faculty
  • 10% DPI/Tech Talent Labs
  • 40% external researchers (e.g., ISBE, UChicago, Northwestern, Loyola, CSEP, Start Early, etc.)

The percentages identified in (4) and (5) represent rough targets, with the recognition that the balance will shift over time. While IWERC intends to be strategic about balancing its portfolio over the long term, there may be some periods in which the portfolio shifts in response to funding opportunities and/or stakeholder need.