How Can Research Help?

Research Questions

What is Involved in Teaching?
How can Teacher Education Help?
How Can Professional Development Help?
How Can Policy Help?
How Can Research Help?
How can we Improve Research?

Research Projects

Teacher Qualifications and the Quality of Teaching
Class Acts
Research and Teacher Learning
National Center for Research on Teacher Learning
Teacher Education and Learning to Teach
Local Uses of Evidence
Evaluations of Federal Programs


Michigan State University
College of Education
Graduate Program in Teacher Education
National Center for Research on Teacher Learning



Education is a social, political, and cultural enterprise, but many people also believe that it could be improved with more attention to empirical research. Not surprisingly, educational researchers are particularly prone to think this and have done a considerable amount of hand-wringing over the apparent lack of attention to their work. Here are a few of my contributions to these debates.

Kennedy, M. M. (2002) Knowledge and teaching. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 8(3/4), 355-370

Compares teachers' reliance on different sources of knowledge: experience, institutional prescriptions, and formal knowledge of the sort provided by universities and staff developers.

Kennedy, M. M. (1999) A test of some common contentions about educational research. American Educational Research Journal, 36(3), 511-541.

Tests competing theories about how to make research more relevant to teachers. Teachers read and discussed five research articles representing different research genres. Comes from the Research and Teacher Learning (RTL) Study.

Kennedy, M. M. (1999) Infusing education decision-making with research. In Cizek, G. (Ed.). Handbook of Education Policy (pp 53-79). San Diego: Academic Press.

A literature review organized into three parts: influence of research on policy, influence of research on practice, and influence of policy on research.

Kennedy, M. M. (1997). The connection between research and practice. Educational Researcher, 26(7), 4-12.

Reviews four hypotheses that have been put forward to account for a perceived lack of connection between research and practice: research lacks authority, lacks relevance, or is not accessible, or the education system is inherently unable to respond coherently to research findings.

Kennedy, M. M. (1997). How teachers connect research and practice. Midwestern Educational Researcher, 10(1), 25-29.

Keynote address at the MWER conference. Examines teachers' interpretations of a research article and shows how prior beliefs can lead to idiosyncratic interpretations.

Prior to joining Michigan State, I conducted a study of how school districts used the many forms of data that the federal government required them to gather. Most of the papers below were about or inspired by that study.

Kennedy, M. M. (1989) Federally-funded research centers as links between research and practice. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.

Part of a symposium on how to organize research so that it better connects to practice.

Kennedy, M. M. (1989). Response: Studying smoking behavior to learn about dissemination. Knowledge: Creation, diffusion, utilization, 11(1), 107-115

This paper was written in response to a collection of papers in which authors fretted about the pontial for research to influence practice. I used smoking as an example to illustrate that, once people knowledge from research, they believe their actions are their own idea.

Kennedy, M. M. (1985) Teacher reactions to use of tests for accountability. In D. U. Levine (Ed.), Improving student achievement through mastery learning programs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

A topic that was timely in the mid 1980s and again in the early 2000's.

Kennedy, M. M. (1984). How evidence alters understanding and decisions. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 6(3), 207-226.

Reviews the different ways in which local school district personnel interact with available evidence and the kinds of uses they made of it.

Kennedy, M. M. (1984). Assessing the validity of qualitative data. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 6(4), 367-377.

Examines the question of whether qualitative data really have the sort of "natural" validity that is often assumed. Reviews some threats to validity that are inherent in interview data.

Kennedy, M. M. (1983). Working knowledge. Knowledge: Creation, diffusion, utilization, 5, 193-211

I coined the term "working knowledge" to refer to knowledge that is both specific to the work situation and also tentative and evolving. This paper shows how people draw on relevant evidence to revise their working knowledge and also how they use their working knowledge to interpret the evidence.

Kennedy, M. M. (1983) The role of the in-house evaluator. Evaluation Review 7(4) 519-541.

On the tension between conducting evaluations that meet professional standards, and at the same time accomodating the problem solving styles of practitioner audiences.

Kennedy, M. M. (1983). Uses of tests in school districts. In L. M. Rudner (Ed.), Testing in the classroom: Proceedings of the NIE Invitational Conference on Test Use. Washington, DC: National Institute of Education.

Examines a variety of practical decisions such as how to group students and whom to refer to special programs, to discern the role that tests play in each.

Kennedy, M. M. (1982). The role of experiments in improving education. In C. B. Aslanian (Ed.), Improving educational evaluation methods. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Examines three randomized experiments conducted in school districts and asks why there aren't more. An interesting read in the new century when the role of experiments has once again become an issue in the research community.

Kennedy, M. M. (1981). Assumptions and estimates of evaluation utility. Educational Researcher, 10(10), 6-9, 26.

A critique of a study of how the United States Congress responded to program evaluation data.