Student Experience Research Network


SERN is grounded in an interdisciplinary understanding that, in order to learn and thrive, students need to experience respect as valued people and thinkers—and that the practices, policies, and norms in education and society have inequitably shaped this experience of school depending on who students are and the opportunities they are afforded. 

Our work is to connect people and ideas across research, practice, and policy to advance relevant scientific knowledge and improve decision-making by education system and institution leaders so that every student’s experience of school sets them up to learn and thrive. 

Decades of academic scholarship has shown that the United States K-16 education system is comprised of practices, policies, and norms that advantage some students and disadvantage others, along the lines of race, ethnicity, indigeneity, class, gender, sexuality, language, ability, and immigration status. Institutional segregation and resource inequities are upheld by legislation, judicial decisions, and individual choices. Curricula and instruction have traditionally privileged certain knowledge and cultural legacies and excluded others. Institutional policies and national trends have produced an instructional workforce that does not reflect the diversity of the student body. Policies around tracking, assessment, special education, and discipline are exclusionary and punitive and disproportionately deployed.   

These long-standing structures affect students’ opportunities to learn and thrive directly, by affording or constraining access to instructional resources, and indirectly, by sending repeated messages to students that they are—or are not—respected as valued people and thinkers. Research that draws on rigorous methods and theories from across the social sciences is essential to understanding the complex ways these structures systematically and differentially shape students’ experience of school—and how these structures can be changed. But this knowledge-building is too often siloed within individual academic disciplines and methods and disconnected from the needs and perspectives of education stakeholders. To this end, SERN connects people and ideas across research, practice, and policy to promote research that is responsive and interdisciplinary, and to enable its timely application to decision-making in education. We engage with academic researchers, intermediary organizations, funders, and other practice and policy influencers in education to advance this work.