New HEDCO Institute looks to strengthen K-12 connections

Teacher and students

A new institute in the UO’s College of Education will be releasing findings from its first research project, just as the institute prepares for its official launch.

The HEDCO Institute for Evidence-Based Educational Practices is conducting a review of depression prevention programs in K-12 schools. The review was commissioned by The Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health, and the results of the analysis will be out in early 2023.

Researchers at the institute will help educators and school administrators tackle complex decisions on the best ways to support their students, from distance learning techniques to student mental health supports. While research exists on a range of educational topics, it's often not practical or feasible for educators to sift through the literature themselves to help guide those decisions.

“Educators want to know the best ways to address education issues, but sorting through individual studies and drawing conclusions is time consuming and difficult,” said Emily Tanner-Smith, executive director of the HEDCO Institute of Evidence-Based Educational Practice. “The need is there; the educational landscape is shifting so rapidly, and school leaders want to understand the best ways to support their students.”

Future reviews at the institute might look at issues such as teacher recruitment and retention, supports to address pandemic learning loss​, four-day school weeks, and additional mental and behavioral health supports for students and teachers.

The HEDCO Institute formed in 2022 and officially launches Jan. 18. Part of the University of Oregon’s College of Education, the institute is aimed at turning existing educational research into accessible, easy-to-digest products that meet the ever-changing decision-making needs of K-12 education leaders.

“We are trying to get research-based recommendations into the hands of educators so they can better address the issues that matter most to their communities,” Tanner-Smith said.

To do that, the HEDCO Institute conducts a process known as  evidence synthesis, which involves reviewing the findings of multiple research studies and combining the information together to get a more holistic view of the results.

To guide its conclusions, the HEDCO Institute seeks direct feedback from educational leaders as part of its eight-person advisory board, which works to keep the institute appraised of the current and emerging issues in education across the county.

To respond to the most pressing educational needs of the moment, researchers at the HEDCO Institute use the latest tools and methods to conduct its rigorous reviews at a more accelerated pace than a traditional research review. Typically, a traditional systematic review might take 12-18 months to complete, while the HEDCO Institute rapid review process can be completed in about three months.

“This accelerated process allows us to be nimble about the kinds of issues we take on, while still maintaining the rigor and scholarliness of a systematic review,” Tanner-Smith said. “And once we finish the review, we want educators to be able to implement the results right away in their particular educational context.”

By Joe Golfen, College of Education