Short Paper , , ,

How Policymakers Make Sense of and Act On Mapping Data in Education Research

Jeremy Singer
Wayne State University

Sarah Winchell Lenhoff
Wayne State University

How might the use of maps shape policymakers’ interpretation and use of research? We answer this question through a reflective case study of policymaker and community member responses to education policy research that leverages mapping and geospatial analysis. Based on interviews with educational leaders and city officials, we discuss their relative attention to mapped data in the reports, the nature of conclusions that stakeholders drew from the maps, and the way in which their reading of maps interacted with their reading of the research as a whole. We found that our partners who were already concerned with the geography of absenteeism, exit, and mobility paid more attention to the maps; the maps encouraged our partners to think about collaborative and concrete solutions; and all our partners had a desire for more mapped data, especially in the form of digital and interactive maps. Policymakers may be especially compelled by geographic representations of educational issues and may adopt more concrete and solutions-oriented thinking when associating educational issues with specific places under their purview. Further, policymakers are likely to engage with digital maps that make geographic data more accessible and more interactive. Beyond simply including maps in research and policy reports, researchers can approach mapping as joint work with policymakers, using the process and products of geospatial analysis as an opportunity for ongoing engagement with policymakers.