The Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative: Collaboration, not Isolation

I need to confess something: I never read educational research when I was a middle school teacher. My day-to-day focus was on the practical and immediate—my students, my lessons, my classroom. Looking back, I realize now that I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and my ignorance led to some problematic decisions in the classroom. Research would have challenged many of my approaches, but I was too isolated in practice to seek it out.

Later, my questions about practice led me away from teaching and into research. As a university professor, I focused on the empirical, the methodological, the valid and reliable, and that meant speaking almost solely with other researchers. When further questions arose, I consulted other scholars and their work. Consequently, the knowledge I was generating mostly stayed within my profession. Déjà vu.

Though my goal as a teacher and as a researcher was to inspire progress and improvement—particularly in those who had been underserved or marginalized by previous approaches—at each turn, I was thinking and working in a silo.

Reflecting on this led me to a realization:

Educational progress depends on a research-proven, field-tested, policy-driven evidence base, but the lack of coordination and collaboration across these sectors was keeping us from moving the field forward.

Fortunately, we’re silo-busting. With core initial support from Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Jobs for the Future built the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative as a catalyst for progress. We are identifying and advocating for research-driven practices and policies by working together across policy, practice and research to examine, apply, and share knowledge about student-centered learning that will advance what we know and do to achieve deeper learning outcomes.

How do we bust silos?

We prioritize cross-sector collaboration, stakeholder communication, and resource curation to amplify the learning that comes from rigorous research. We do it by prioritizing equity and by translating each others’ insights to make sure whatever challenges and solutions we discover make sense to those not living in the silos where the work is often undertaken.


We convene cross-sector partners and we use learner-centered practices to support them to work together. Doing this ensures that whatever research-based solutions they identify or devise are eventually applied in learning environments with a responsiveness that builds on local knowledge rather than controls for it. By building community and curiosity among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners we inspire them to learn from the research and from one another. The result is that we’re helping the field to scale research-proven, field-tested, student-centered approaches.

In short: we collaborate, not isolate.

Would you like to learn more? Visit the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative site and sign up for new products, funding opportunities, and more here. Want to learn more NOW? Watch this video:


The Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative is grateful for thought leadership and anchor funding from The Nellie Mae Education Foundation and additional support from Overdeck Family Foundation and Barr Foundation.

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