Navigating the Tensions: How Could Equity-relevant Research Also Be Agile, Open, and Scalable?

Zacamy, Jenna
Roschelle, Jeremy
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Digital Promise
Digital learning platforms are beginning to become open to research. Specifically, in our work in SEERNet, developers are extending five platforms, each used in either K-12 or higher education by more than 100,000 users, to enable third-party researchers to explore, develop, and test improvements. SEERNet seeks to enable equity-relevant research aligned with the IES Standards for Excellence in Education Research (SEER) principles. It also seeks to support research that is more agile (or rapid), is more open, and scales from research to impacts on practice. We review the emerging tensions among the goal of equity-relevant research and desires for agile, open, and scalable research. We argue that designing and developing technical capabilities for agile, open, and scalable research will not be enough. Based on a series of interviews we conducted with experts in social sciences and equity-focused research, we argue that researchers will have to rethink how they plan and undertake their research. Five shifts could help. First, researchers could deliberately reframe their designs away from a comprehensive, monolithic study to smaller, agile cycles that test a smaller conjecture each time. Second, researchers could shift from designing new educational resources to determining how well-used resources could be elaborated and refined to address equity issues. Third, researchers could utilize variables that capture student experiences to investigate equity when they cannot obtain student demographic variables. Fourth, researchers could work in partnership with educators on equity problems that educators prioritize and want help in solving. Fifth, researchers could acknowledge that achieving equity is not only a technological or resource-design problem, but requires working at the classroom and systems levels too. In SEERNet, we look forward to working with the research community to find ways to address equity through research using well-used digital learning platforms, and to simultaneously conduct research that is more agile, more open, and more directly applicable at scale.
SEER , SEERNet , open datasets , digital learning platforms , research