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Research Agenda 

TERA's research agenda is determined by a joint steering committee representing Peabody College and the Tennessee Department of Education. Specific research questions are informed by members of a broad-based Advisory Committee representing Tennessee education groups and stakeholders. Based on that input, the Tennessee Education Research Alliance has prioritized three areas of focus, detailed below.

Reimagining state support for professional learning

There is an increasing recognition that educators continue to improve instructional practice throughout their careers and that high-quality professional learning is an integral part of the growth process. Yet, through responses on the Tennessee Educator Survey, we know there is wide variation in the types of professional learning teachers receive across the state. In the coming years, TERA will seek to better understand professional learning experiences of teachers across Tennessee, and which experiences are most likely to lead to better instruction and student learning. 

Guiding Research Questions

  • What constitutes the professional learning experience for educators in Tennessee?
  • How and why do certain teachers improve more quickly than other teachers?
  • What types of professional learning opportunities are needed at different career stages?
  • What are the conditions in schools and districts that support greater teacher improvement?
  • How can the state organize to support this type of improvement? How can school districts? How can schools?

Driving improvement in low-performing schools

Like many states, Tennessee has sought to find the right approach toward intervening in persistently low-performing schools. TERA will continue building on an existing body of knowledge on school improvement efforts in the state and elsewhere to better understand the dynamics of chronic underperformance and the ways in which different intervention models can change them.

Guiding Research Questions

  • Are there a set of high-needs schools that are improving more rapidly than expected?
  • What are the conditions in those schools that allow for more rapid improvement?
  • Are there district policies that either facilitate or hinder improvement? State policies?
  • What kind of variation exists among district improvement structures? How does this variation impact achievement?
  • Are there lessons across these schools and districts that can be exported to other schools and districts?

Strengthening Tennessee’s education labor market
Labor Markets

Success of Tennessee's school improvement strategies ultimately depends on those working most closely with students - teachers and school leaders. Over the next several years, TERA will continue to explore Tennessee’s education labor market to understand more about the pathways and pipelines that prepare, attract, and retain highly effective teachers and leaders. In addition to general research in these areas, we will specifically focus on issues related to educator diversity in Tennessee, and the particular challenges of teachers and leaders in rural districts. 

Guiding Research Questions

  • How do schools and districts recruit and selectively retain effective teachers and leaders? How does the state facilitate recruitment and retention?
  • What are the conditions in schools, districts, and educator preparation programs that lead to having highly effective teachers and leaders?
  • Where are the gaps in effectiveness? In experience? In content expertise? Between districts? What factors influence these gaps?