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 of 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.

This is a working paper. Working papers are preliminary versions that are shared in a timely manner, with the aim of contributing to ongoing conversations in research and practice. They have not undergone the UChicago Consortium’s full internal review process, nor have they received external peer review. Views expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect those of the UChicago Consortium or the University of Chicago. Any errors are the authors’ own.