Crowdsourcing and Research Accelerators

There is a paucity of adequately powered studies; experimental research; independent replications; and studies with diverse and representative samples, settings, and contexts in the teacher-preparation research base. As such, it is difficult to identify generalizable, evidence-based practices for teacher preparation. One potential way to address these challenges is through crowdsourcing.

In contrast to the traditional research paradigm, in which individuals or small teams conduct many small studies, crowdsourcing leverages the broad scientific community to conduct studies on a scale not otherwise possible (Makel et al., 2019). “Crowdsourcing flips 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).

One approach to crowdsourcing involves many research teams conducting the same study across diverse sites and participants. For example, the Psychological Research Accelerator recently conducted a crowdsourced study examining social judgments of facial expression that involved 11,481 participants from 130 locations in 48 countries, with over 200 contributing authors (Jones et al., 2019). Crowdsourcing not only enables researchers to conduct research at a scale unimaginable using traditional approaches, it also permits exploration of variability in findings (e.g., differences between world regions). 

Crowdsourcing might also be applied to research in education and teacher preparation to facilitate high-quality, large-scale, collaborative replication studies with diverse samples. Indeed, Brownell et al. (2019) included crowdsourcing among their chief recommendations for improving the research base for teacher preparation. “We envision programs of varying size and state contexts working collaboratively to identify practices that could be introduced simultaneously across programs and assessed using common measures, such efforts could provide the human resources needed to conduct more systematic research on teacher education practice and measurement” (p. 13).  

We were recently awarded a grant (R324U190001) from the Institute of Education Sciences to develop and pilot the Special Education Research Accelerator (SERA). In a nutshell, we are developing procedures and infrastructure for conducting crowdsourced studies in special education, potentially including teacher preparation. We will be conducting a pilot study using SERA with approximately 15 to 20 research partners throughout the US to examine the effects of instructor- and student-provided explanations on science-fact acquisition for elementary students with high-functioning autism. Training on the intervention and data collection will occur in the upcoming spring and summer, with the study being conducted in fall of 2020. The intervention will be brief and conducted individually with students. Researchers will (a) receive a small honorarium for conducting the intervention and collecting data, and (b) be included as co-authors on any resulting publications.

We are identifying researchers interested in potentially participating as research partners in SERA studies. It is fine to work as a team with colleagues, post-docs, and/or doctoral students. If you have access to students with high-functioning autism and are interested in being involved, please provide us with your name and email address here. If you would like to receive information on potentially participating in subsequent SERA studies (specific topics yet to be determined), please indicate so at the same link. Feel free to express interest in just the pilot, just future studies, or both.