The Association of Science-Technology Centers, Oregon State University’s Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning (led by Martin Storksdieck, Shawn Rowe, Lynn Dierking, and Nancy Staus), the Pacific Science Center (led by Dennis Schatz), and the Lifelong Learning Group of COSI Columbus will form an “Innovations in Development” collaboration to develop a Professional Framework for the field of informal STEM learning (ISL). The project will address two current and pressing issues: (1) Ensuring that ISL professionals have the necessary knowledge and skills to apply the substantial and growing evidence base in ISL in order to effectively engage the public in STEM, and (2) Understanding and supporting the needs of the full range of ISL professionals during their basic education and at particular points throughout their careers. These two issues are linked.
Research and evaluation now point to a growing consensus for evidence-based practices in ISL. Yet, ISL as a profession is struggling to develop effective mechanisms to deliver these validated research and evaluation results to practitioners at any level—whether they work at the intersection of institutions and visitors, manage or direct services and activities, or lead entire ISL institutions that are embedded in the broader educational and cultural landscapes of their respective communities. Current repositories, such as the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education’s informalscience.org and informalcommons.org websites, ExhibitFiles, howtosmile.org, and other resources provide excellent ways to access information. However, effective professional learning requires, at the most basic level, a fundamental understanding of the needs of working professionals at critical points along their career pathway and, as is true in any field, resources need to be accompanied by education and training if they are to influence practice.
This project is funded by NSF award #1515315.