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MSP LNC 2009

Susana Navarro's Reflection

It was a pleasure to read the MSP LNC Abstracts as they are generally well thought-out, reflect a good deal of careful methodological planning, and reflect appropriate concern regarding the challenges of undertaking research on broad scale education reform efforts.  While they all deal with pre-service and in-service preparation of STEM teachers, or recruitment, induction and retention of STEM teachers, the range of topics covered in the posters is impressive.  Also instructive and impressive is the range of approaches and instruments used to measure impact.  There is significant overlap in the interventions examined in the studies, yet several novel approaches are included in the set.  And, as requested in the Call for Abstracts, this year's Learning Network Conference abstracts provide detailed information on design as well as outcome data and discussion, rather than being primarily focused on project implementation.

These abstracts are an excellent resource for new and existing partnerships as they highlight the end result - and sometimes the thinking that went before - of long thoughtful deliberation about how to construct interventions, how to design thoughtful studies, as well as lessons learned about both the interventions, and the evaluations of them.  They are particularly important as a source of information regarding existing measures that have been used in collecting data on MSP projects, as well as newly developed survey and observation protocols, and other such measures, that could be utilized in new studies and provide further information about the validity and usefulness of new measures.

Several thoughts on this year's Abstracts.  First, Professional Learning Communities have come up time and again in the MSP projects and there is a vast difference in the ways in which the various MSPs are designing and implementing their interventions toward achieving MSP goals. The same thing is true around approaches to lead teachers and coaches.  While it's clear that variations in approaches across partnerships will need to exist, there might be great value in creating on-going conversations among partnerships that are utilizing some of the same interventions to ensure that the best ideas are shared and that everyone learns from everyone else.  The MSP KMD process is certainly helping share research findings and lessons learned, as are the LNC meetings, but something more - that encourages partnerships, but doesn't become an onerous burden on them - may make sense.  Second, there is a similar need to share design and data analysis approaches that, as with the interventions, vary greatly.  Again, though there will always need to be fairly wide variation in types of designs and analysis used in these studies, partnerships could benefit from a forum around these issues.

Finally, not as many people as might are utilizing the Poster Hall.  I wonder if there might be some way to coax partnerships to utilize the Poster Hall.  Some partnership faculty and staff may have made use of the copies of the abstracts provided in the LNC binder provided to all participants.  But it would still be worthwhile thinking creatively about how to encourage utilization of the on-line abstracts.  One of the things that could be done almost immediately is to group them by focus area, as they were in the LNC agenda.  This could facilitate access to abstracts by topic and provide a ready resource to individuals not wanting to wade through all abstracts.