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Professional Learning & Growth

Professional Learning & Growth

Our Professional Learning and Growth research investigates how scientists, trainees, and educators learn in their profession and develop the skills, practices, and dispositions that support STEM learning.

Advancing Public Engagement with Science across the Long Term Ecological Research Network (APEAL)


The Advancing Public Engagement with Science across the Long Term Ecological Research Network (APEAL) project’s goal is to improve how Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites are engaging with their (local) community (non-profits, other governmental agencies, local internship programs, etc.). The premise behind the project is that scientific organizations that are deeply embedded into communities, or are relying on long-term relationships with the communities they are part of, might have a strategic interest in authentic engagement with those communities, in part to ensure that research efforts can be sustained over time The project will survey and interview LTER scientists, leaders, and staff from the 28 LTER sites about their strategic notions around science outreach. It will investigate several key LTER sites in depth to see what they are already doing toward public engagement of science (PES); what is going well or poorly? Then, using all that information, alongside other evidence-based public engagement with science (PES) strategies within STEM research organizations, to support the broader LTER Network in improving engagement with their community.

ISL Framework

2022 - 2025

This project will develop a repository of resources and supports to increase the usability, usefulness, and on-the-ground use of the Informal STEM Learning (ISL) Professional Competency Framework that was developed with previous NSF support (#1514815, 1514884, 1514890, and 1515315). The proposed resources and the integrated research will advance knowledge of professional learning, professional development, and the broader concept of professional work in the ISL field. The work proposed here could ultimately benefit individual communities and society at large by advancing the capacity of ISL professionals and a science-engagement field to more effectively respond to societal needs, concerns, and interests.

Innovations in Development: Building Supports Towards a Useful, Usable, and In-Use Framework of Professional Competencies for the Informal STEM Learning Field

2022 - 2025

The Association of Science-Technology Centers, the Center for Science and Industry (COSI) Center for Research and Evaluation and Oregon State University’s STEM Research Center (led by Kelly Riedinger and Martin Storksdieck) are collaborating for this innovation in development project to develop a repository of resources and supports to increase the usability, usefulness, and on-the-ground use of the Informal STEM Learning (ISL) Professional Competency Framework that was developed with previous NSF support (#1514815,1514884, 1514890, and 1515315).

Reservoir Observer Student Scientists (ROSS)

2022 - 2025

Reservoir Observer Student Scientists (ROSS) is a citizen science program that helps students to understand their local aquatic ecosystem and water quality issues and contribute water samples to monitor lake ecosystems.

Modeling Zoos and Aquariums as Inclusive Communities of Science for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (MoZAICS)

2021 - 2025

The STEM Research Center is collaborating with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on a research in service to practice project funded by the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning project to support the Modeling Zoos and Aquariums as Inclusive Communities of Science for autistic individuals (MoZAICS) project. MoZAICS focuses on developing an evidence-based framework of inclusive practices for zoos and aquariums to support science learning for individuals with autism across the full zoo/aquarium experience including the general visit, programs, exhibits, internships, volunteering, and employment opportunities. The project will also support the building of a community of practice of zoo/aquarium practitioners dedicated to the comprehensive inclusion of autistic individuals and toward building an overall strategy of inclusion across the AZA community.

Authentic Research Experiences for Teachers @ Long-Term Ecological Research sites

2021 - 2024

The goal of the Authentic Research Experience for Teachers at Long Term Ecological Research sites (ARETs@LTERs) project is to engage high school teachers who work with students from marginalized groups in the practice, process, and communication of data-intensive STEM. In this project, teachers work in partnership with scientists to explore how emerging stressors such as drought, marine heatwaves, and global warming impact communities and biodiversity across ecosystems. Four teachers are stationed at each of three LTER sites spanning critical habitat types: the arctic tundra (Arctic LTER), temperate montane forests (Andrews LTER), and marine coastal ecosystems (Santa Barbara Coastal LTER), forming a cohort of 12 teachers in year 1, joined by another 12 teachers in year 2.

Sense of Belonging in Undergraduate Field Education: Implications for the Design of Inclusive STEM Learning Experience

2021 - 2024

The Sense of Belonging in Undergraduate Field Education project - led by Kari O’Connell (STEM Research Center at OSU), Stephanie Shaulskiy (University of Michigan Biological Station), Alison Jolley (University of Waikato in New Zealand), and Lucas Hill (evaluator, University of Wisconsin-Madison) - will fill a critical hole in the scholarship of STEM teaching and learning by advancing understanding of how student sense of belonging develops in undergraduate learning experiences outside of the traditional classroom.

The Virtual Field: A Mitigation Strategy for the COVID-19 Pandemic

2020 - 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing massive disruptions in higher education. Faculty across disciplines are struggling to quickly transition to virtual classrooms. Nowhere has this been more difficult than in the field sciences, where first-hand experience with the complexity of the natural world is essential for applying classroom learning to authentic settings, developing deep content knowledge and skills, and fostering identity as a field scientist.

Developing Integrative Manufacturing and Production Engineering Curricula That Leverage Data Science (IMPEL)

2019 - 2023

The Developing Integrative Manufacturing and Production Engineering Curricula That Leverage Data Science (IMPEL) project is developing a modular curriculum with seven courses, credentials including certificates and a minor in data science for production engineering, and a course/module recommendation system to help students determine which course or module will best meet their needs. These resources will help people working in manufacturing to retool their skill sets to keep up with the modern world.

Convergence Accelerator Phase I (RAISE): Analytics-Driven Accessible Pathways To Impacts-Validated Education (ADAPTIVE)

2019 - 2020

Drs. Martin Storksdieck, Nancy Staus and Heather Fischer along with Kimberley Preston were part of a transdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners from academia (Oregon State University, Arizona State University and Indiana University) and industry (The Boeing Company and Burning Glass Technologies) that developed a career guidance system at a national scale. The Convergence Accelerator Phase I (RAISE): Analytics-Driven Accessible Pathways To Impacts-Validated Education (ADAPTIVE) project consisted of the development and testing of meaningful data visualizations and analytics about the relevance of, and efficacy of, available learning opportunities and credentials to help learners make informed, labor market aligned reskilling choices.


2019 - 2025

The Lucy Student Pipeline Accelerator and Competency Enabler (L’SPACE) Virtual Academy is a new student collaboration program with NASA’s Lucy Mission to Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids. This interactive, team and project-based, 12-week program is designed to engage a diverse population of college/university science and engineering students in rigorous, project-based STEM workforce development.

STEM Ambassadors Program (STEMAP)

2019 - 2023

The STEM Ambassador Program is a collaborative project that seeks to foster greater inclusion in science by training scientists to engage members of the public in innovative ways outside traditional venues.

On-the-Spot Assessment to Improve Scientist Engagement with the Public (OTS)

2018 - 2023

The collaborative On-the-Spot Assessment to Improve Scientist Engagement with the Public (OTS) project has developed an overall strategy and suite of tactics for STEM professionals to use during public engagement with science outreach events. The project builds on the theory of change that if scientists have training and access to the right resources then they will gain confidence and an understanding of how to flexibly engage with their audience. This two-phase study began by working with scientists to create effective strategies for audience feedback that were then field-tested across a variety of activity types, leading the project toward a validated OTS model for scientists.

NASA Earth Science Education Collaborative (NESEC)

2018 - 2025

Dr. Heather A. Fischer is leading the Center team for the NASA Earth Science Education Collaborative (NESEC) evaluation, with support from Dr. Martin Storksdieck, Dr. Matt Nyman, Dr. Nancy Staus and Holly Cho. The purpose of this evaluation is to (1) Provide strategic guidance to the NESEC team on project focus and productive connection to external partners. (2) Provide support for product and program development based on conceptual and empirical evidence. (3) Provide evidence for project reach and impact, focused on goals and metrics that align with key goals that are guiding the overall NASA SMD Science Activation program.

GLOBE: Citizen Science Needs Assessment

2016 - 2018

OSU’s STEM Research Center conducted the GLOBE: Citizen Science Needs Assessment that will inform the expansion of the NASA GLOBE program to citizen scientists outside the K-12 arena. The findings from this needs assessment informed the on going work of the NESEC project evaluation (to the NESEC project).


2018 - 2023

The ARIS Center is a collaboration between 12 universities launched in September 2018 with an award from the National Science Foundation (OIA 1810732) and a mission to Advance Research Impacts in Society through four initiatives: building capacity; advancing scholarship; growing partnerships; and curating resources. Dr. Julie Risien leads the OSU arm of ARIS and oversees the advancing scholarship initiative of the ARIS Center.

Undergraduate Field Experiences Network (UFERN)

2017 - 2022

Field stations and marine labs often provide specific types of training not provided anywhere else in the undergraduate education system. Because of the potential of these programs for reaching a broad range of undergraduates across the U.S. and the world and the tremendous investment in field stations and marine labs, it is critical to consider how to best provide effective educational experiences at these venues and other extended field programs. The Undergraduate Field Experiences in Research Network (U-FERN) worked to understand the impacts of these types of experiences and to build a community of practitioners working together with education researchers to share and develop effective practices that are inclusive of all students. The network connects current knowledge about the persistence of underrepresented students in Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) with practitioners of undergraduate field experiences to harness the power of active learning as a potential for increasing participation and persistence in the field-based sciences.

Broad Implementation of a Professional Learning Model for Outdoor Science Programs (BEETLES)

2017 - 2023

The STEM Research Center at Oregon State University (OSU) led the evaluation efforts with a focus on supporting project improvement. More specifically, the OSU evaluation team (led by Heather Fischer) complemented the project team’s research efforts by assessing the quality of the project as a whole and evaluating the degree to which the project met the goals articulated below. In addition, the OSU team provided external perspectives and expertise related to informal science education, the landscape of outdoor science education, best practices in research and evaluation, and science content.

Explorer at Large Pilot Implementation

2017 - 2020

The STEM Research Center was a research and evaluation partner with Little Yud Ventures and the PAST Foundation on the Explorer at Large (XAL) pilot program in Ohio.Through freely distributed videos and associated instructional materials (study and teacher guides), hands-on in-class and outdoor activities, field trips to relevant local settings, and parent-student engagements, XAL aimed to enable students across three cities in Ohio to experience and practice scientific thinking skills that would prepare them for advanced education and career success within a pedagogical approach that taps into children’s natural curiosity and playfulness.

Oregon STEM Hub Evaluation

2016 - 2019

STEM Hubs are regionally-focused, multi-sector partnerships that unite schools, universities, non-profits, businesses, civic leaders and other members of communities in so-called local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning ecosystems. STEM Hubs have their origin in recent research on effective STEM programming which strongly recommends integrated approaches to teaching and learning that include not only all students, but also all assets for learning, both in and outside the classroom. To do this, STEM Hubs are implementing strategies that include (amongst others) educator professional development on best practices in STEM instruction; in- and out-of-school, hands-on STEM learning experiences for students; and connections to fast-growing STEM employment opportunities in Oregon. But most importantly, STEM Hubs are creating connections between programs, thereby ensuring that they develop their full effectiveness. The state of Oregon is supporting STEM Hubs by funding a backbone infrastructure as an essential component of a collective impact organization.

Corvallis School District Tablet Evaluation


The Corvallis School District has introduced about 4,000 tablet computers into classrooms with the intent to provide students with access to personal devices and digital resources to support their learning. The implementation of the “tablet program” began in 2012 with the goal of connecting every student to a deeper and more personalized learning experience with instructional technology. The Corvallis School District and the STEM Research Center (Leads: Martin Storksdieck and Nancee Hunter) collaborated on a flexible and responsive research and evaluation process to analyze this effort.

STEM Matters: Investigating the Confluence of Visitor and Institutional Agendas

2016 - 2021

Led by Dr. Kelly Riedinger and Dr. Martin Storksdieck with assistance from Kimberley Preston Victoria Bonebrake, Nicolette Canzoneri, and Kevin Keys OSU’s STEM Research Center partnered with two other research organizations, Knology (formerly New Knowledge Organization Ltd. and COSI’s Center for Research and Evaluation on the NSF grant STEM Matters: Investigating the Confluence of Visitor and Institutional Agendas also referred to in the zoo and aquarium field as the Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter (WZAM) project.

STEM Beyond School

2016 - 2021

The STEM Research Center served as the evaluator for the STEM Beyond School program which used an innovative approach to expand STEM opportunities and student STEM interest, motivation and enthusiasm in STEM-related activities and careers among historically underserved students in grades 3-8 by supporting high-quality out-of-school STEM programming, professional development and a statewide network for community-based out-of-school-time providers.

Bringing the Universe to America's Classrooms

2016 - 2021

The Bringing the University to America’s Classrooms project included the production, evaluation, and dissemination of a comprehensive set of Next Generation Science Standards-aligned interactive modules for K-12 students – collections of STEM resources highlighting NASA science through custom-designed resources, including video clips, interactives, animations, digital games, lab experiences, and accompanying lesson plans.