Each product can be traced back to a district-defined problem of practice. When a partnership with a school district is established, SERP recruits researchers in whatever area the district identifies as its highest priority. SERP deliberately builds on existing knowledge, programs, and tools, but districts rarely nominate a focal problem for which a solution currently exists. A central feature of the partnership work is therefore the design of new programs, tools, and practices. SERP design processes use research knowledge to design for students, teachers, and administrators as end users of the products—prototyping and improving in response to observations and user feedback.
SERP follows the contours of a problem over time. To the extent that funding permits, the newly exposed problems become the focus for the next phase of work.