Systems Leadership for Math Improvement

Research-Practice Partnerships and DBIR

Research Practice Partnerships (RPP) are collaborative, long-term relationships between researchers and practitioners, designed to improve problems of practice in education. This model provides a context in which research is incorporated into decision-making, and the problems studied are meaningful to practitioners in schools and districts. They are not specifically designed to address gaps in research, but instead focus on persistent problems within everyday educational practice (Coburn & Penuel, 2016). RPPs can take many forms, from involving researchers from a single university and a single district, to much larger partnerships convening individuals from many research and practice contexts. Unlike some studies in which individuals from research and practice collaborate for only the duration of a single project, RPPs are designed to be long-term, and often do not have a specific timeframe specified at the outset. Research-Practice Partnerships do not assume that researchers have solutions or that there is information lacking in practical contexts. Instead, the promise of RPPs is that by bringing practitioners into research, research questions will be more relevant to practitioners and the results from this research are more likely to be implemented in real-world contexts (Research + Practice Collaboratory).

Research Practice Partnerships are often formed using a Design Based Implementation (DBIR) approach. There are four key principles to DBIR: 1) deciding on a focus for joint work in which teams carefully negotiate issues of power and authority when deciding on which problems of practice to take up in their work; 2) organizing the design process in which the goal is to improve learning at scale in a participatory manner; 3) doing research in DBIR in which theory(ies) guide the research and implementation of interventions; and 4) developing capacity for continuous improvement in DBIR in which programs are more sustainable due to efforts to continuously incorporate improvements into the research design process (Adapted from:


Readings and Resources on Research-Practice Partnerships and Design Based Implementation Research

We recently wrote a paper about how our design team learned through the process of our RPP, and a paper that examines the process of learning about the "decomposition of practice" in an RPP. The links are below. 


Coburn, C., & Penuel, W. (2016). Research-Practice Partnerships in Education: Outcomes, Dynamics, and Open Questions. Educational Researcher, 45(1), 48.

Rigby, J., Forman, S., Fox, A., & Kazemi, E. (2018). Leadership Development Through Design and Experimentation: Learning in a research-practice partnership. Journal of Research in Leadership Education. 13(3), 316-339.

Resnick, A.F. & Kazemi, E. (2019). Decomposition of practice as an activity for Research-Practice Partnerships. AERA Open, 5(3).


Design Based Implementation Research

Research + Practice Collaboratory

WT Grant Foundation Research Practice Partnerships

Spencer Foundation Research Practice Partnerships