What is SERA?
Despite the increase in high-quality, experimental research being funded and conducted in special education, large-scale, representative, replication experiments remain scarce, which impairs the field’s ability to identify robust evidence-based practices across the spectrum of outcomes and populations of learners with disabilities. The Special Education Research Accelerator (SERA) is a platform for conducting crowdsourced replication research in special education.
What is an Accelerator?
An accelerator is a web-based platform for conducting large-scale, high-quality crowdsourced research using a standing network of laboratories and skilled researchers that have agreed to collect data for studies. Having a standing cadre of labs and researchers, as well as an established infrastructure and procedures for conducting studies across multiple research partners, allows us to quickly conduct high-quality, large-scale replication studies with diverse samples to address questions of consequence in the field. Accelerators can help democratize and accelerate the pace of research and accumulation of knowledge in our field.
Although special education researchers are conducting more rigorous experimental studies than ever before, methodological limitations to the special education research base persist that hamper the field’s ability to identify evidence-based practices and improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Critical limitations include:
- A dearth of adequately powered randomized control trials (RCTs);
- Lack of transparency and openness, which leads to researcher flexibility in conducting, analyzing, and reporting research;
- Scarcity of independent, systematic replications; and
- Limited diversity amount researchers, study samples, settings and contexts.
What do we do at UVA?
In the current project, we are developing, piloting, assessing, and refining the infrastructure and procedures of SERA. When fully developed, SERA will serve as a platform for organizing multiple research teams to collaboratively conduct high-quality, large-scale, and open replication studies with diverse samples in special education. This approach to crowdsourcing can be used to conduct direct replications (i.e., each research team conducting the exact same study) and conceptual replications (i.e., systematically varying study samples, outcomes, and intervention elements across research teams) using different research designs.
Our long-term vision for SERA is to develop a validated infrastructure, procedures, and an affiliated network of special education researchers to conduct high-quality, large-scale, and open replication studies with diverse samples to address critical questions in the field.