DLRC Partnership Models

Wilella Burgess, Discovery Learning Research Center, Purdue University
Loran Parker, Discovery Learning Research Center, Purdue University

Building partnerships is the key to DLRC's success as a research center. Rather than describe a single partnership, we will describe our general approach to collaboration and partnership building. DLRC fosters development of approximately 40 grant proposals each year with diverse teams of researchers both internal and external to the university. While our role is often seen as contributing to the education or evaluation of a STEM research proposal, our actual function is more often focused on team-building and project development. We use a variety of tools, but find that the use of logic models is effective in guiding multidisciplinary teams to a place of convergence and clarity as they define goals and objectives, align activities and strategies, and imagine outcomes and measures. Our staff provide insight into funding mechanisms, potential team members, knowledge of the education research and funding landscapes at both the federal and foundation levels. We also provide knowledge and expertise regarding evidence-based practices in STEM education at all levels and contexts (preK through professional training in formal and non-formal settings). We provide research methodology expertise that entails deep knowledge of social science theoretical frameworks, associated methods and study design. This includes quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods that help researchers plan effective studies. This adds value to research-based projects by enhancing rigor and outreach-based projects and proposals by enabling evaluation and scholarship.

Four examples illustrate common types of partnerships: 1) internal evaluation/project collaborator, 2) external evaluator (off-campus), 3) external evaluator (on-campus), 4) research collaborator.

  1. Internal evaluation/project collaborator: "This is How we 'Role'" is an NIH SEPA project aimed at enhancing interest and aspirations for STEM research careers among underserved elementary students. DLRC provides formative program evaluation to promote iterative improvement. We also contribute to scholarship related to program development and impact.
  2. External evaluator (off-campus): A regional community health network has federal funding to conduct inter-professional team-based training as a mechanism for improving patient care and outcomes. DLRC serves as external evaluator for this project, aiding the leadership team in developing logic models to inform project implementation and evaluation, collecting and analyzing data, and providing feedback to enable continuous improvement.
  3. External evaluator (on-campus): DLRC supports a large on-campus federal grant by serving as external evaluator. This project is examining the impact of student-centered course reform on student outcomes. DLRC staff develop and implement evaluation strategies, data collection, analysis, and reporting that meet What Works Clearinghouse requirements and provide evidence of project efficacy for funders and the research community.
  4. Research collaborator: Faculty researchers are developing an educational intervention that gives students authentic project-based experience with computer science with the goal of increasing student interest in pursuing careers in computer science related fields. DLRC staff partner with faculty researchers to develop theoretical frameworks that guide research and create study designs that can examine program efficacy.


Center Profile: Discovery Learning Research Center - Purdue University