These core principles represent a “working constitution” for IWERC that will make the organization unique, impactful, and sustainable. None are binding or immutable, but they represent the intentions of IWERC’s founders, as well as the expressed need for IWERC by stakeholders across the state.
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.
(3) Novelty: 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.
(4) Bridging of Statewide Issues: 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.
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.
As a whole, IWERC’s research work will need balance across the following areas:
(1) Education levels
(2) Lenses on education
(3) Lenses on educational success
(4) Period of performance
(5) Research collaborators
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 where the portfolio shifts in one direction or another to take advantage of funding opportunities or to respond to stakeholder need.