This report describes the lessons learned about the common challenges that Regional Educational Laboratory program Midwest researchers brought to the professional learning community, the strategies they identified to address the challenges, and the tools they used to overcome the challenges

Conducting collaborative research is challenging. Many researchers lack experience with the research alliance model of engaging with practitioners throughout the research process, from study design through interpretation of the findings. This reflection paper summarizes the challenges and lessons learned by REL Midwest researchers who convened a professional learning community to address the challenges they faced working with new research alliances funded by the Institute for Education Sciences (IES). IES’s 2012-17 REL program required the development of research alliances that would connect practitioners, researchers, and policymakers around educational challenges in each region. These research alliances, developed and supported by the 10 Regional Educational Laboratories, were tasked with addressing the challenges through regional research, technical assistance, and engagement projects.

Through REL Midwest’s professional learning community, the eight participating researchers met regularly for two years to identify the challenges they faced in conducting collaborative research, seek resources and solutions, and then apply those solutions to their work with the research alliances. This paper documents these learnings in an effort to make them available to a broader audience of researchers.

A working paper is a work in progress intended to contribute to current conversations in research, policy, and practice in a timely manner. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed herein are preliminary thoughts solely of the author(s) and shared with permission of the author(s). These preliminary findings, interpretations, and conclusions may change upon further interrogation and collaboration with UChicago Consortium colleagues and other stakeholders in our work.