Conceptions of evidence use in school districts: Mapping the terrain

Cynthia E. Coburn*, Joan E. Talbert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Current policies place unprecedented demands on districts to use evidence to guide their educational improvement efforts. How districts respond is likely to be influenced by how individuals in the district conceptualize what it means to use evidence in their ongoing work. This study draws on sensemaking and institutional theory to investigate how individuals in one urban school district conceive of evidence-based practice. The study develops grounded typologies that describe the ways that individuals conceptualize high-quality evidence, appropriate evidence use, and high-quality research. It then explains variation in conceptions, pointing to the ways organizational responsibilities and reform history shape how individuals come to understand evidence-based practice. The article closes by suggesting implications for district response to federal policy demands for evidence-based practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-495
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican Journal of Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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