This blog post was authored by Dr. Svenja Wolf, Assistant Professor of Sport Psychology.
If We Want to Make the World a Better Place, We Need to Translate Our Knowledge
We as researchers accumulate knowledge, study by study, article by article and, if I can take myself as a representative sample, we hope that this knowledge will help make the world a better place, even if it is only one fraction at a time. However – spoiler alert! – our knowledge alone will not magically do this. It needs a bit (or maybe a lot) of help to make it all the way to its anticipated target audience and to enable this target audience to understand and utilize it (and then make the world a better place). In other words, what we need here is some solid knowledge translation (Straus et al., 2013).
Knowledge Translation Means Gathering and Synthesizing Available Knowledge and Then Creating Knowledge Products
According to Wolf et al. (2020), knowledge translation means the
- literal translation of scientific information into understandable language, practical approaches, and concrete measures (that still retain their scientific integrity, of course, not a problem there) as well as the
- communication via accessible and popular formats and media (those your target audience actually uses).
The three steps that are necessary in this process, according to Graham et al. (2006) are
- knowledge inquiry,
- knowledge synthesis,
- knowledge tools/products creation,
while consistently tailoring the knowledge to the target audience, format, and media.
The Case of the LEGO Coach
My knowledge expertise lies broadly within sport psychology and more specifically in the areas of emotions, groups, and organizations, as evidenced in our lab-name, the Laboratory for Emotions in Groups and Organizations (LEGO) here at Florida State University. Accordingly, we felt it would also make sense to focus our knowledge translation efforts on these topics as we know these best and can provide credible information on them.
Step 1: Determine the Target Audience
We could have focused on a number of populations (athletes, athletic directors, performers from other contexts), but we decided to focus on sports coaches in particular because these have an important multiplier position (usually) working with several athletes or entire teams and likely are in positions of power to implement some of our suggested strategies (also for themselves and if they feel better, their teams also benefit). In addition, we wanted to start with our primary context of expertise, sport, although the content should be easily translatable to peer leaders (team captains) or other settings (performing arts, business).
Step 2: Decide on the Suitable Format and Medium
Based on a literature search and previous interviews with sports coaches regarding their preferences for receiving psychological knowledge and tools, it became clear that coaches preferred readily accessible and usable information with an option for further in-depth information and the documentation of a credible evidence base (Farhat et al., 2022; Pope et al., 2015). And, of course, due to our ever changing knowledge base and our hope to grow the initiative into other populations, we needed a dynamic and scalable format. This is where CreateFSU and the Project Enhancement Network and Incubator (PEN & Inc) came in. These platforms and initiatives allowed us to build a website infrastructure to host our developed information and knowledge tools/products, update these as we go forward, and – most importantly – meet coaches where they would be searching for and consuming this kind of information, on the internet.
Step 3: Sketch the Overall Structure and Knowledge Tools/Products
The website we are currently building, the LEGO Coach, will contain pages for a variety of emotion- and group dynamics-related phenomena such as leadership, emotional intelligence, or team cohesion. Each page will present short and crisp information bits underlaid with more in-depth elaborations and evidence and complemented with downloadable handouts and exercises and brief reports from coaches, athletes, and mental performance consultants. Specifically, each page will address these phenomenon’s:
- Manifestation in the field
- Assessment options
- Regulation in self and in others
- As well as provide links to
- Fact Sheets,
- Reports from the Field,
- Assessment Tools,
- Regulation Playbooks, and
In addition, we will have basic information and training pages on sport psychology at large (Sport Psychology 101) and the research processes behind our information (Research 101). Coaches will also be able to create their own accounts (to access the downloads) and leave comments and ratings on different tools and reports.
Step 4: Gather and Synthesize the Available Knowledge
This and the following steps are the ones we are currently tackling (we’ll see how that goes and how long that takes…). The knowledge gathering will be a routine search of the academic literature, something in which we as researchers are well versed (yay, useful life-skills) and the knowledge synthesis will be the comparison and combination of the found studies and theories to paint one overall picture on each phenomenon.
Step 5: Translate this Knowledge
Once we have synthesized the available knowledge, we will have to stray outside of our researcher boxes and work on presenting the information in short, understandable language and derive concrete, practically useable exercises and behavioral guidelines from it.
These are examples from Holt et al. (2018) that show what this could look like.
Step 6: Make Things Visually Appealing
Finally, given that we actually accomplish the previous step, we of course have to upload the information and tools to our website and present them in visually appealing ways (something else in which researchers do not always excel in).
Wanting to Make the World a Better Place is a Challenge
So, if you have not yet gathered this whole knowledge translation business is a huge challenge, moving us outside of our researchers’ comfort (and skill) zone. Still, we know it will be worth it because this will give us the chance to get our knowledge out to coaches who might then become better leaders and lead happier, healthier, and successful teams and – hey! – maybe we will have indeed made the world a tiny bit of a better place. For more information or to become a part of this challenge, please contact me, Dr. Svenja A. Wolf at email@example.com.
Graham, Ian D., et al. “Lost in Knowledge Translation: Time for a Map?” Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, vol. 26, no. 1, 2006, pp. 13–24., https://doi.org/10.1002/chp.47.
Holt, Nicholas L., et al. “PYDSportNET: A Knowledge Translation Project Bridging Gaps between Research and Practice in Youth Sport.” Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, vol. 9, no. 2, 2017, pp. 132–146., https://doi.org/10.1080/21520704.2017.1388893.