How Research Can Help Teachers Learn

Written By : Julie Riordan
Director, Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands

As a teacher, you may have had the opportunity to participate in a research study. Perhaps you
completed a survey about your instructional practices or you participated in an interview or classroom
observation. Did you ever wonder what the researchers learned?

Two years ago, Education Week reported on the challenge of getting information about what works into
the hands of teachers and what the federal government is doing to increase access and actionability of
research findings. One way is through the Regional Educational Laboratory (or REL) program. This is a
network of 10 regional centers around the country, funded by the research arm of the U.S. Department
of Education – the Institute of Education Sciences. I serve as the director for the REL Northeast & Islands
region, which includes all of New England, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Each REL partners with educators and policymakers to improve outcomes for students. One way we
accomplish this is by conducting research in collaboration with practitioners. Another way is by designing
and delivering training about how to use data or research to inform decisions, policies, and programs.
Finally, RELs disseminate research and evidence-based practices that are relevant to the needs of the
education practitioners and policymakers in their regions. You can access many of these resources on our
REL Northeast & Islands website, where you will find videos, toolkits, webinars, an online course, and
more. So what are some examples? Below, I’ve listed research and resources from REL Northeast &
Islands that are especially relevant for teachers, including research on teacher mentoring:

  •  Data coaching to advance teacher mentoring in Boston Public Schools: Watch this video to
    learn how REL Northeast & Islands collaborated with Boston Public Schools to develop a logic
    model and improve data collection to advance the effectiveness of a district-led mentoring
    program for beginning teachers.
  •  Study of teacher mentoring in Connecticut: This study examined data from Connecticut’s
    induction and mentoring program for beginning teachers. We found that teachers who
    completed more of the teacher mentoring program requirements were more likely to stay
    teaching within the same district and in the Connecticut public school system.
  •  Online course on creating and using performance assessments in the classroom: This self-
    paced online course provides educators with detailed information on performance assessment.
    Through five 30-minute modules, practitioners will learn foundational concepts of assessment
    literacy and how to develop, score, and use performance assessments.
  •  Practitioner data use toolkit: This toolkit is designed to help teachers systematically use data to
    inform their teaching practice. The customizable workshop materials include an agenda, slide
    deck, participant workbook, and facilitator’s guide – covering the following topics: developing
    data literacy, engaging in a cycle of inquiry, accessing and analyzing available data, identifying
    and creating student goals, and using data to make action plans about instructional decisions.
  •  Continuous improvement toolkit: This toolkit helps educational practitioners implement
    continuous improvement processes in their own schools, districts, or agencies with the tools,
    resources, and agendas provided in the toolkit.

More Resources from the Institute of Education Sciences

Another federally funded initiative that provides useful information for educators is the What Works
Clearinghouse (WWC). The WWC reviews existing research on different programs, products, practices,
and policies in education. One of the most relevant resources for teachers are the WWC Practice Guides.
These guides provide recommendations for instructional practice based on research reviews, the
experience of practitioners, and nationally recognized experts. You can find practice guides on a range of
topics, from strategies to teach secondary school students to write to improving mathematical problem
solving in Grades 4 through 8.

A final important resource worth highlighting is the collection of COVID-19: Evidence-Based Resources
the REL program has produced to support educators during the pandemic. They range from materials
you can use in your own classroom to support online learning to resources you can send to parents and

Ask A REL if You Have A Question

Maybe you have your own question about what strategies would work best in your classroom, especially
if you are now teaching exclusively online or in a hybrid model. For example, what are effective
strategies for engaging students in online learning environments? Please reach out to us by sending your
question to our easy-to-use Ask A REL service or search our database of already answered questions.
We will conduct a search of research and resources related to your question, and will send you a
document with links to these resources and short abstracts that describe them.
You may also have ideas for research that would benefit your classroom practice and support the
learning experiences of your students. I’d love to hear from you! You can reach me at
And if you would like to stay up-to-date with everything new from REL Northeast & Islands, please
subscribe to our newsletter so we can stay in touch.