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Research & Evaluation

Connecting Research & Practice

Since WestEd’s inception in 1966, our researchers have been conducting studies to address significant questions and issues related to teaching and learning and to human development in a range of social settings.

WestEd staff operate at the intersection of research, policy, and practice, bringing the methods of systematic inquiry to bear on real-world problems. Our Approach to Research & Evaluation framework illustrates our dual commitment to building the general knowledge base while supporting applied learning in local contexts.

Contact Us About Our Research Work

Review & Synthesize Research

Guided by the needs of the field, we review and synthesize research, suggesting implications for policy and practice, and identifying research gaps.

To distill the growing body of knowledge generated by studies in education and other fields, WestEd engages in review and synthesis of relevant research. The results have implications for policy and practice. They also identify knowledge gaps to be addressed through future research.

The nature of our research reviews varies according to the needs of our partners or clients, the questions guiding the reviews, and the amount or types of research available.

For questions about “what works,” WestEd researchers conduct systematic reviews that use explicit and transparent processes to identify, retrieve, code, analyze, and report on a body of research. Reviews summarize evidence about impact, analyses of the factors contributing to impact, and the population and context of implementation. Reviews with a sufficient number of studies may also include meta-analysis that examines the combined effects across studies to yield an overall effect size for the program or strategy of interest. Using meta-analysis instead of relying on an individual study can help ensure that policy or practice is guided by the totality of evidence, drawing upon a solid basis for generalizing outcomes.

In areas where there is less rigorous research available, reviews are still important and useful. WestEd researchers may bring together experts as well as examine the existing literature to identify promising strategies that should be studied further. Research-based frameworks or theories are developed to guide policymakers, educators, and community stakeholders as they make decisions, plan for program implementation, and design local evaluations that can add to the research base over time. Summaries or policy scans of how states, districts, or other jurisdictions are approaching a problem may also be provided.

Illustrative examples from our work

Systematic reviews and syntheses

The Justice and Prevention Research Center at WestEd has produced a brief, What Do We Know About the Effects of School-Based Law Enforcement on School Safety, which represent a definition of school-based law enforcement and summarizes some of the relevant research about its effects on students and schools. The brief is the product of a systematic review and meta-analysis funded by the international Campbell Collaboration. WestEd’s team also completed multiple reviews on restorative justice, addressing a range of outcomes, and has participated in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Initiative to Develop and Test Guidelines for Juvenile Drug Courts.

Research-based frameworks

The Center on School Turnaround conducted a thorough review of research on turnaround and organized the themes from the research into Four Domains for Rapid School Improvement: A Systems Framework. In practical language, the framework shares the practices of successful school turnaround in four domains that both research and experience suggest are central to rapid and significant improvement: turnaround leadership, talent development, instructional transformation, and culture shift. Since the framework’s release in 2017, more than 20 states have begun working with the framework to bolster their turnaround efforts, as described in this 2018 R&D Alert article.

Research and policy scans

WestEd conducted a review of the research and policy literature on assessing English learner students with learning disabilities. This review distilled several key elements of processes that can help identify and support English learner students with learning disabilities. It also describes current guidelines and protocols used by the 20 states with the largest populations of English learner students. This report and the accompanying brief inform education leaders who are setting up processes to determine which English learner students may need special education services. Stakeholders in California used this information in legislation and subsequent development of a guide for the California context.

If you’d like more information on how we can help or partner with you, contact Neal Finkelstein tel: 415.615.3171 Contact by Email