Adults sitting in chairs discussing.
Photograph courtesy of Student Experience Research Network
Partner Spotlight

Student Experience Research Network

The Problem

  • Research shows that students’ school experiences — including their sense of belonging, belief in their ability to learn and grow and the relevance of their schoolwork — have a profound impact on their learning and well-being.44
  • For example, in learning environments, when students receive consistent messages that they belong, they experience greater well-being and school outcomes, including improved academic grades and persistence.45
  • However, this research is not sufficiently understood by education decision-makers or translated into classroom practice.

CZI Support

We supported Student Experience Research Network’s (SERN) work to advance research on the science of learning and human development, increase awareness among education leaders about the importance of student experience and work with a broad array of partners to translate these findings into teaching practices. SERN also worked to elevate the leadership of scholars from diverse backgrounds.

The Impact

SERN, and the researchers it engaged, published 30 scholarly working papers and more than 70 research translation briefs, including 33 non-technical briefs on new findings from SERN-funded research initiatives.46 SERN engaged leaders from dozens of education organizations nationally. SERN also launched the SERN Midcareer Fellows Program and graduated a cohort of 15 fellows with diverse personal backgrounds. These scholars published policy briefs that synthesized research on the school-based structures that shape students’ experiences, making this research relevant and actionable for policymakers.47

As a result, more interdisciplinary research is now available in the education field, and a broader, more diverse group of scholars gained recognition for their research and leadership in the student experience field. SERN played a significant role in raising awareness about the importance of students’ experience of school. A survey of SERN stakeholders found that 90% agreed that the field’s knowledge base on student experience improved, and 76% believed SERN made some or a significant contribution to this shift.48

SERN sunset its operations in 2023.49 As part of this strategic sunset, the group engaged in grantmaking that seeded a next generation of research-based knowledge building, relationship building and action related to student experience. SERN supported a convening of researchers, practitioners and policymakers to synthesize existing research on student experience and measurement and its practical applications. Participants identified new directions for future research that can be sustained through new partnerships and collaborations.




Previously known as Mindset Scholars Network, Student Experience Research Network (SERN) connects people and ideas across research, practice and policy to advance relevant scientific knowledge and improve decision-making by education system and institution leaders so every student’s school experience sets them up to learn and thrive.

When SERN was founded in 2015, students’ experience of school wasn’t a prominent feature of education discourse and research was siloed. SERN advanced a cross-disciplinary knowledge base, cultivated relationships across long-standing silos, and translated research in ways that brought attention to student experience. Ultimately, SERN’s work helped shift the narrative among influential leaders in education, who today are drawing on a broader body of research as they develop their strategies and programming.

Lisa Quay