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K-20 Partnerships: Literature Review and Recommendations for Research


Federal programs, such as the National Science Foundation's Math and Science Partnership program, are promoting K-20 partnerships (partnerships between K-12 and higher education institutions) in hopes of fostering greater alignment and cooperation among participating institutions, and pooling resources within institutions to address persistent problems associated with poor student performance. To identify what is known about K-20 partnerships and assess the rigor of the available research, the authors undertook a literature review. They identified 36 research articles that met pre-established selection criteria, reviewed all articles, and conducted an analysis of the literature. The analysis addresses the following questions: (1) What inquiry methods have been used to study K-20 partnerships, and what is the rigor of the methods?; (2) How is partnership defined?; (3) What do we know about the formation, process, and results associated with partnership? The authors conclude that the K-20 partnership literature lacks methodological rigor and scope, that partnership is inadequately defined in essentially all cases, and that the research about how K-20 partnerships form and function, and what they achieve contains significant gaps. Despite these weaknesses in the literature, a strength is that multiple, independent qualitative researchers working with a grounded approach and in different contexts arrived at similar conclusions about factors associated with success and failure. They recommend that future research articles begin with a clear definition of the term partnership, build upon and extend available research through replication studies and diversification of samples, pay closer attention to the contexts in which K-20 partnerships operate, and include findings on how K-20 partnerships form, and how they function.