What Research District Leaders Find Useful

William R. Penuel*, Caitlin C. Farrell, Anna Ruth Allen, Yukie Toyama, Cynthia E. Coburn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This study investigated what research district leaders find useful. It draws on evidence from interviews and surveys of central office leaders in three large urban districts in the United States. We find that although leaders did report using research as federal policies intend—to select among curricula, programs, and interventions to adopt—the kinds of research district leaders find useful are not primarily peer-reviewed impact studies. Instead, research they find useful present frameworks and practical guidance in the form of books. Leaders also report using research to support their own professional learning, guide their instructional leadership activities, and monitor and support implementation of district-adopted programs and practices. These findings make the case that we need a broader understanding of the research that may be relevant for the multifaceted work of district leaders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)540-568
Number of pages29
JournalEducational Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • district administrators
  • evidence use
  • research use
  • school district central office

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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