The Association of Science-Technology Centers, Oregon State University’s STEM Research Center (led by Martin Storksdieck, Nancee Hunter, and Nancy Staus), the Pacific Science Center (led by Dennis Schatz), the University of Washington (led by Kris Morrissey), and the Lifelong Learning Group of COSI Columbus “Innovations in Development” (led by Joe Heimlich) collaborated to develop a Professional Framework for the field of informal STEM learning (ISL). The project addressed 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.
In response to these issues, we have developed an ISL Professional Learning Framework, based on a structured empirical process that revealed what professionals in science centers, science and natural history museums or children’s museums actually do when performing their job-related tasks. The goal was to create a Professional Framework that professionals and institutions could use to identify and support job competencies and knowledge gaps, and be directed to relevant tools and resources. While formal training is useful as a starting point, professional development support structures encourage continual, self-directed learning, aligned to institutional contexts. Thus, the Framework, if broadly adopted and utilized, has the potential to build capacity across the field.
This project was funded by NSF award #1515315.