Matching Promising Theories with the Daily Realities of Users: A Conversation with LEARN Network Lead Rebecca Griffiths

February 8, 2024 | By Kerry Friedman

Illustrated graphic of Theory-Practice

LEARN Network lead Rebecca Griffiths recently had a conversation with the SRI Homeroom podcast host Kori Hamilton Biagas. They discussed how promising innovations with strong theories of action have inspired Griffiths’ work and how the LEARN Network is helping researchers better match their promising theories with real world problems of practice.

In the conversation, Griffiths talks about the tension she sometimes experiences between the evaluator and the developer roles. As evaluators, objectivity is the standard in determining whether an innovation is effective, while developers tend to be more focused on the promise and potential of an innovation. The developer’s curiosity is often motivated by an ideological or moral imperative to get the innovation into the hands of students and teachers, whereas the evaluator is focused on the performance of the innovation.

At the same time, both evaluators and developers need to be thinking about how the innovation fits into the lives of intended users, a key factor in whether the innovation will make it to scale. Griffiths asks:

So what is the problem of practice that this product or intervention is solving for teachers, for school administrators, for students? What is it that would motivate them to want to pick that up to use it and to integrate it into their day-to-day work? To get the school district to pay for it if it involves a license?

She goes on to share:

Often, researchers don’t turn to those questions until later in the development cycle. And at that point, it’s kind of hard to go back and make some of the adjustments to a product or program that would be needed for it to really fit into the workflow, the environment of a school district, or to really be fine-tuned to meet the needs of teachers.

Through the LEARN Network, Griffiths is helping researchers connect compelling theories with the objective evaluation of evidence while also deeply engaging with the communities they intend to serve.

Listen to the full episode:

View and download an episode transcript.

Tags: Application Evidence-based Innovation Research & Developers Research and evaluation Transition