Defining Collaborative Problem Solving Research: Common Values and Distinctive Approaches (2018)

This white paper defines the values that animate a set of approaches to education research that we are calling Collaborative Problem Solving Research (CPSR). The name describes some attributes shared among these approaches at a high level. The approaches are collaborative, in that they share a commitment to drawing on the voices and expertise of different stakeholders in education in defining and conducting research. They are focused on solving problems related to equity in education. What defines them as approaches to research is that they use systematic forms of inquiry into education problems and solutions to those problems. These approaches stand in contrast to forms of research in which participants in research and other educational stakeholders have little opportunity to define the aims of, select methods for, or present conclusions from research.

We review four approaches to CPSR in this white paper. We selected them purposefully both for their breadth and their relative maturity as approaches to research and development. These approaches are: (1) Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP); (2) Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR); (3) Improvement Science in Networked Improvement Communities (IS/NICs); and (4) Community-Based Design Research (CBDR).

Naming the complete set of approaches to research and development that share these characteristics is a challenging task, and this white paper details both the potential value of naming these as a family of approaches and the pitfalls of attempting to bring them together.

For each approach, we describe how values that we identified as common to CPSR approaches are embodied in specific exemplar projects, and we look across accounts of CPSR research to identify themes with respect to what is and isn’t described in projects. We used a participatory strategy for identifying common values, engaging advocates of each approach in a collaborative process for identifying potential commonalities and differences among the approaches.

Authors: Bill Penuel, Don Peurach, Whitney LeBoeuf, Robbin Riedy, Michael Barber, Tiffany Clark, Kathryn Gabriele