Understanding where and how research has been used to promote equity and inclusion in education can support others to conduct and use research in transformative ways. To that end, in 2021, Student Experience Research Network documented two stories of research-based change in the Spotlight Series videos.

The videos describe how education intermediary organizations Equal Opportunity Schools and Policy Analysis for California Education drew on research related to students’ experience of feeling respected as valued people and thinkers – and the policies, practices, and norms that shape that experience – to inform their work. Intermediary organizations play a key role in shaping decision-making by leaders in education systems and institutions and can be a powerful conduit for applying research in education practice and policy.

In these examples, the work of academic researchers helps to motivate shifts that challenge the status quo – requiring an orientation toward change on the part of both the researchers and the intermediaries. Researchers discussed how, through this type of work, their research questions and processes became more responsive to needs in the field. Leaders from the intermediary organizations outlined the insights from research that propelled them to rethink the way students were being served in their system.

Their stories demonstrate the importance of connecting people and ideas across research, practice, and policy. They also offer advice for others in research and education who are working toward a system in which every student’s experience of school sets them up to learn and thrive.

Episode One: Measuring the Conditions for Belonging

This video features SERN scholar DeLeon Gray and SERN midcareer fellow Elan Hope, who co-authored the paper “Black and Belonging at School: A Case for Interpersonal, Instructional, and Institutional Opportunity Structures,” and Kia Franklin and Sasha Rabkin, who oversaw the application of this research at Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), a national organization that collaborates with school districts to help better serve students of color and students from families facing economic disadvantage and to increase equitable access to advanced learning classes. They discuss the scholars’ approach to the research, how it was taken up in practice at EOS, and what advice they would give to researchers and intermediaries undertaking similar work.

Episode Two: Examining Equity in College Admissions

This video features SERN scholar Michal Kurlaender, professor and chair of the University of California (UC) Davis School of Education and a faculty co-director at Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE); Heather Hough, the executive director of PACE; and early career scholars Kramer Cohen and Iwunze Ugo, who work with Michal at UC Davis. They describe how research on the role of standardized test scores in college admissions informed the decision by the UC Board of Regents to suspend their standardized test requirements for applicants until 2024, what they learned from the process, and how the decision fits into the national discourse around educational equity.