Welcome to the Special Education Research Accelerator

Bryan G. Cook, William J. Therrien, Vivian C. Wong, Christina Taylor

We are pleased to welcome you to the Special Education Research Accelerator (SERA). SERA is a platform for crowdsourcing data collection in special education research across multiple research teams. When we read about the Psychological Research Accelerator, which crowdsources data collection for massive studies in the field of psychology conducted throughout the world, we began to think about the potential benefits of crowdsourcing in special education research. In essence, instead of a single research team conducting a study, crowdsourcing of data collection involves a network of research teams collecting data. Crowdsourcing allows researchers to flip “research planning from ‘what is the best we can do with the resources we have to investigate our question,’ to ‘what is the best way to investigate our question, so that we can decide what resources to recruit’” (Uhlmann et al., 2019, p. 713).

Given that there are relatively few students with disabilities, especially low-incidence disabilities, in schools, it is often difficult for special education researchers to obtain large, representative samples for their studies. Moreover, given limited grant funding, relatively few researchers in the field have the resources to conduct studies with large, representative samples on their own. Crowdsourcing data collection across many research teams seemed to us to be well-suited to address these and other challenges faced in special education research.

However, implementing crowdsourcing in special education research presents many challenges. Can interventions be conducted with fidelity across many different research teams? How will data be managed? How will implementation fidelity be measured? How will IRB issues be handled across multiple institutions? Fortunately, the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) funded an unsolicited grant for us to develop and pilot a platform for crowdsourcing research in special education research (i.e., SERA) to examine these and other issues. By involving many different research teams in data collection of studies, SERA can generate large and representative study sample, involve diverse sets of researchers, and examine whether and how study findings vary across researchers and researcher sites, in ways that studies conducted by a single research team could not.

This website has two primary functions: (a) a public-facing site to provide information and resources related to SERA and crowdsourcing research in special education, and (b) a hub for research partners to access resources and interact with SERA staff related to ongoing SERA projects. We hope all of you explore the website to learn more about SERA, the team behind SERA, and our SERA research partners. Please check back periodically as we provide updates. For our research partners, please be on the lookout for an email over the next few weeks which will contain your login credentials, as well as provide additional information on navigating pilot study resources and materials.

Currently, we are in the process of preparing to conduct a crowdsourced randomized control trial that conceptually replicates Scruggs et al.’s (1994) study of acquisition of science facts. We will be examining the effect of instructor-provided elaborations and student-generated elaborations on science-fact acquisition for elementary students with high-functioning autism across more than 20 research partners and sites throughout the US.

We couldn’t be more excited about SERA, this website, and our upcoming pilot study. We plan on developing and refining SERA for future use in many different crowdsourced studies in special education. If you’re interested in potentially being involved in future studies, please send us a message using the contact form here. We hope that you’ll find the site interesting and helpful, and that (if you’re a special education researchers) you’ll consider being involved in a crowdsourced SERA study.

Meet Elizabeth Talbott!

Name: Elizabeth Talbott, Ph.D.

Institution/Organization Affiliation: William & Mary

Additional Research Team Members: Heartley B. Huber, Ph.D.

SERA Research Partner Bio:

Elizabeth Talbott is Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development in the School of Education at William & Mary. She earned her B.S. degree in psychology from Virginia Tech and her M.Ed. and Ph.D. degrees in special education from the University of Virginia. She has worked in adult psychiatry at UVA hospital and has taught young people with and without learning and behavioral disabilities in the upper elementary grades. Her research seeks to improve the use of evidence by school and pediatric professionals in assessment, intervention, and public policy for young people with behavioral and mental health disabilities.

What made you interested in partnering with SERA?

I’m excited about the opportunity to work with a diverse team of special education researchers in the inaugural year of the special education research accelerator.