“From the Field: Education Research During a Pandemic” – Overview of Authors’ Recommendations

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From the Field: Education Research During a Pandemic”
Educational Researcher, July 8, 2020

David DeMatthews (University of Texas at Austin), David Knight (University of Washington), Pedro Reyes (University of Texas at Austin), Amber Benedict (Arizona State University), and Rebecca Callahan (University of Texas at Austin)

Overview of Authors’ Recommendations 

As education researchers’ ongoing work is interrupted by school closures, what can they do to support education and public health institutions dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic? To understand how to best respond to the crisis, the authors reached out to 15 public health officials, state and local policymakers, educational leaders, directors of national education organizations, and researchers across disciplines. These conversations informed the recommendations provided here. The authors’ recommendations, while clearly not exhaustive, is intended to encourage education researchers to consider how they can inform the knowledge base and support front-line educators and healthcare researchers during this crisis.

Education researchers can support Covid-19 efforts in the medical and public health fields.

  • Many schools of medicine and public health are aiding in the response to Covid-19 and require additional non-clinical research support.
  • Researchers can engage in activities that do not require specific medical knowledge but align with their existing skill sets. These include interviewing Covid-19 patients, notifying individuals of potential exposure, and compiling detailed case data into public health monitoring platforms.
  • Across disciplines and methodologies, researchers are initiating studies about people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to Covid-19 and investigating its disparate impact.

The education research community can support education leaders by synthesizing and translating research.

  • Researchers have access to relevant scholarship, often behind paywalls, and can synthesize research to help SEAs, districts, and frontline educators make rapid, informed, evidence-based decisions.
  • Researchers can support school leaders by translating important findings into practical remedies for educational inequities.

Education researchers can organize and develop timely professional development (PD) opportunities.

  • Researchers already engaged with educators, schools, and districts through research-practice partnerships can assess students’ social and emotional learning needs, problem-solve to meet local resource needs amid Covid-19-related budget cuts, or quickly provide targeted PD for teachers and principals based on emergent needs.
  • Researchers can respond to district- and school-level PD needs by organizing and/or providing PD for crisis management, finance and budgeting, distance learning, mental health virtual services, and other evidence-based practices to improve student outcomes.
  • Researchers can coordinate with government agencies, consultants, and other experts to develop FAQ lists, tips for families or teachers, webpages, or web-based synchronous or asynchronous PD sessions. They might also be able to disseminate their work through educator networks.

Education researchers are well positioned to partner with SEAs, districts, and schools to evaluate new practices and make recommendations for improvement.

  • Researchers are uniquely positioned to conduct in-depth and inferential analyses of disparities in access and outcomes and to investigate how students are accessing online learning opportunities, while balancing concerns about student privacy.
  • Researchers can use publicly available school district budgets and financing data to assess the levels and equity of school resources, findings that will be important as the economic downturn impacts state and district budgets. 
  • Researchers could share their analyses quickly, providing formative feedback on existing district practices. They could also share their work broadly in the form of policy briefs, white papers, and webinars, targeting associations of superintendents, school boards, and educators.

Covid-19 disrupted education research nationwide and continues to require researchers to modify or adjust their projects as it progresses.

  • Researchers whose studies have been compromised by the pandemic must choose the lesser of two evils: (a) quit and make do with incomplete data, or (b) rerun their studies when schools reopen, but potentially without funding.
  • Researchers may now find opportunities to restart or modify their studies as schools move instruction fully online. Districts and schools will be implementing a variety of new programs and supports, while also considering how to spend federal stimulus money. 
  • While plans to reopen schools remain tentative, researchers can investigate crisis management; school openings and potential re-closures; states’, districts’, and schools’ implementation of curricula, special programs, and assessments; and student attendance and engagement in the context of the pandemic.

For More Information

The full Educational Research (ER) article, “From the Field: Education Research During a Pandemic,” is available open access at: 
https://journals.sagepub.com/stoken/default+domain/MWGYUI4NRGX5KBGZN9VV/fullER is a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.


About AERA
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge about education, encourages scholarly inquiry related to education, and promotes the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Find AERA on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.