Research Convening: Connecting the Dots

Posted: July 29th, 2016


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We recently convened a group of researchers from a cross-section of fields related to education and workforce development to share their progress on ACT Foundation-supported research, to surface ideas, make connections with other researchers, and develop research strategies to uncover information about the best ways to support students’ work and learn journeys. Many were ACT Foundation Aces, researchers who have spent the past few years helping the Foundation initiate a national conversation about working learners.

Learn more about ACT Aces and research here.

Parminder High Resolution Headshot“We must elevate the narrative about the need to support working learners, who are a silent majority of students.”Parminder Jassal, Ph.D., executive director of ACT Foundation. “We must elevate the narrative about the need to support working learners, who are a silent majority of students,” said Parminder Jassal, Ph.D., executive director of ACT Foundation.  “Especially for those from underserved communities, new thinking, new evidence, and even the creation of new fields of exploration are needed to address the realities they live with. It’s critical to change corporate practices and evolve education policy to empower this core of our workforce to reach their full potential.”


Topics explored during the robust discussions at the event included:

  • how working while learning impacts college readiness, including college entrance exam scores;
  • if working learners are more confident about their career paths;
  • the importance of informal learning outside of the school setting, including intentional and unintentional skill development and workplace learning structures;
  • approaches to learning, including experiential, active, situated, and relational;
  • “on-demand” learning through internet sites such as Google and Youtube;
  • bias in hiring practices;
  • human resource methods to promote diversity;
  • drawbacks of candidate screening systems and technology;
  • training for job roles that don’t yet exist;
  • skills transference; and
  • the importance of curiosity in research.

The Research Convening is part of our work to examine working outcomes, learning models, and career trajectories on a macro level in order to set a baseline for an exploration of ways to create a national environment supportive of working learners. The gathering of researchers provided a venue for collaboration to “connect the dots” between key elements what we’ve learned and are learning.  Serious discussion revolved around how underserved and working learners are positioned for competitiveness in careers and college. Moreover, much discussion revolved around not only what working learners are learning, but how they learn it.

Our Aces and other associated research leaders are well equipped to shine light on the importance of working learners, having spent years investigating a wide range of areas that impact working and learning. Collectively, the researchers have extensive expertise in fields including industrial and organizational psychology, workforce policy, competency supply/demand analysis, program evaluation, kindergarten-career longitudinal data matching, talent development, retention, non-cognitive workplace skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, skill measurement, innovation, technology, the future of learning, student success, statistics, human resources, cultural change, succession planning, servant leadership, urban education, equity, sociology, racial/ethnic disparities, gender, structural and relational processes, and science, technology, engineering and math.

The information gathered by ACT Foundation’s Aces and other researchers will help inform the research agenda of the ACT Center for Equity and Learning, which will carry forward much of the Foundation’s work. Senior leaders from the Center, as well as senior researchers from ACT Inc., were on hand to evaluate the best ways to blend the research strategies of various parts of the organization to achieve the most effective outcomes. Just as important, the group discussed the need to prioritize the distribution of important learning resulting from the research to catalyze positive action related to equity among working learners.