A conjecture on “Internal Knowledge Mobilization”

A few weeks ago, I was asked by someone in a Faculty of Education if there were models of “internal knowledge mobilization”. By this, they meant “how can we mobilize the education research we are doing to benefit our teacher training”. The following was my reply. I think it is relevant beyond education, for example to research in hospitals benefitting medical practice in the hospital, nursing research benefitting nursing practice in Schools of Nursing and social work instruction benefitting from social work in research from the same university.

Let me start by saying that the UK REF 2021 (unlike REF 2014) allowed cases studies of university research that had documented impact on university teaching so what the Faculty of Education is asking for does happen and is captured as legitimate research impact.

But how do you go about supporting “internal” knowledge mobilization?

Internal knowledge mobilization should follow the same principles as mobilizing externally.

  • You have Faculty of Education knowledge producers and Faculty of Education knowledge users. Likely these are Faculty of Education researchers and Faculty of Education teacher trainers training both new teachers and building skills of existing teachers. But you may have some researchers working on education governance/policy that may be relevant to senior leaders setting governance and policy for Faculty of Education
  • You need to understand the knowledge needs of your knowledge users. Since they are internal to Faculty of Education this is substantially easier than stakeholder engagement for external knowledge users since you have existing channels to get to them and possibly some existing relationships. But the process is the same: some surveys, some focus groups, some key informant interviews
  • You also need to know the perspective of Faculty of Education researcher to understand what form of systemic Faculty of Education structure they need. A good tool for this is the Institutional Knowledge Mobilization Needs Assessment Planner from U. Ottawa, a member of Research Impact Canada
  • Once you know the needs of the knowledge users you can map them onto the research capabilities of Faculty of Education researchers and start to make connections so you can move to co-production between Faculty of Education researchers and Faculty of Education knowledge users.
  • You can identify the knowledge mobilization activities that will facilitate knowledge mobilization (clear language research summaries of peer reviewed articles, a community of practice, workshops, teacher/researcher exchanges etc). Then your internal structure supports those knowledge mobilization activities and events
  • Then you collect the evidence of impact and express this in case studies of Faculty of Education teacher trainers who are using Faculty of Education research to inform their teaching practice.

So, the process shouldn’t be very different and, although I haven’t supported it myself, I think it would be easier working internally since you already have existing relationships and the knowledge producers and knowledge users are working under the same overarching Faculty of Education strategic plan so there should be expectations, incentives and rewards that can be built in to support the institutional structure. This latter should be part of the plan. Incentives and rewards/recognition should be supported by Faculty of Education. Researchers who do this work should get recognition via tenure/promotion or career progression. Teacher trainers who do this work should have time off in their schedule to engage with research and use it in their practice. This should be feasible since both are under one strategic plan.

So “internal knowledge mobilization” should theoretically be more straight forward than mobilizing research beyond the academy. It should work for education, nursing, medicine, social work maybe legal and business instruction – anytime a Faculty’s research can inform the teaching of professionals in the Faculty.

And knowledge mobilizers take note – how are you using knowledge mobilization research in your capacity building and training programs?