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STEM Teaching & Learning

STEM Teaching & Learning

Our STEM Teaching and Learning research investigates how teaching and learning practices, tools, and media impact learner outcomes and experiences.


2023 - 2025

This Aurorasaurus project tracks auroras around the world via reports on its website and on Twitter. Using Aurora-related tweets and reports, it generates a real-time, global map of the Lights. Citizen scientists then log in and verify the tweets. Each verified tweet or report serves as a valuable data point for scientists to analyze and incorporate into space weather models. The project has made a number of discoveries. For example, Aurorasaurus, in collaboration with citizen scientists and the scientific community, published the first scientific study of STEVE (Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement), an aurora-like phenomenon that appears closer to the equator and flows from east to west. Aurorasaurus also conducts outreach and education across the globe, often through partnerships with local groups of enthusiasts. Aurorasaurus is a research project that is a public-private partnership with the New Mexico Consortium supported by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Cultivating Indigenous Research Communities for Leadership in Education and STEM (CIRCLES)

2022 - 2027

The goal of the Cultivating Indigenous Research Communities for Leadership in Education and STEM (CIRCLES) Alliance is to develop Native-based STEM education activities for K-12 and higher education students. This is done between the partner institutions and their local tribal communities and colleges. Project partners will be developing or building strong relationships with tribal communities and colleges to understand what educational activities are meaningful to their community and support the success of Indigenous/Native American students in STEM.

Well-Rounded Access Program (WRAP)

2022 - 2025

The Well Rounded Access Program (WRAP) is the Oregon Department of Education’s (ODE) approach to increase access to well-rounded courses through funding from the US Department of Education’s Expanding Access to Well-Rounded Courses Demonstration Grant. This five year, $9.8 million federal grant was awarded to ODE in October, 2020. ODE proposes to focus its approach to developing, expanding, and implementing, a course-access program by expanding access to STEAM-related courses as well as building capacity to develop and maintain an arts program. Course options developed through the proposed grant will be accessible to students through a combination of in-person, online, and distance learning formats to meet the diverse and evolving needs of Oregon’s students and communities. The STEM Research Center will head up formative and summative evaluation of all program elements.

STEM Storytelling with Podcasts for Blind, Visually Impaired and Sighted Students (SSP)

2022 - 2025

The STEM Storytelling with Podcasts for Blind, Visually Impaired and Sighted Students (SSP) project will broaden participation in STEM for blind and visually impaired (BVI) and sighted upper elementary students through engagement with podcast technology. BVI individuals are significantly underrepresented in the STEM workforce. Research has shown that BVI students face many obstacles in pursuing education pathways to STEM fields, beginning in early education. These obstacles include negative attitudes of both students and teachers regarding the ability for BVI persons to engage in STEM careers, and the lack of BVI-accessible STEM resources in classrooms. This project builds on the success of the children’s science podcast, Tumble, to engage BVI students in the use and development of podcasts to promote STEM learning and career awareness.

Students to Launch

2022 - 2025

Students to Launch is a 3-year program that will allow approximately 2,300 youth and their adult mentors from informal science education programs to attend NASA space launches. These intense experiences will serve as the anchor for hands-on, informal science education programs for both youth participating in the launch and associated pre-launch activities and for youth who engage in pre-launch programming but do not travel to the launch. Further, social-media based outreach developed and promoted by youths who attend the launches and become “Space Ambassadors” has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of science-interested youths nationally and internationally.

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.

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 through Collaborative Learning: Undergraduate Research Experiences in Data Rich Arctic Science (ARC-Learn)


Quality research experiences support undergraduates to successfully continue their education in STEM fields. However, many of these programs are intensive experiences that occur over the summer months, often requiring students to travel to distant or remote locations to participate. This common structure limits access for many students. ARC-Learn is a 2-year undergraduate research experience that provides a more flexible, lower-intensity model to eliminate common barriers to participation. Over the course of two years, ARC-Learn students work within an affirmative science community and are exposed to the full “arc” of research, from understanding scientific challenges to sharing the results of research with the public.

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.

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.

interPLAY: Early Learners Developing STEM Skills through Play and Design

2020 - 2024

The interPLAY: Early Learners Developing STEM Skills through Play and Design project focuses on playful engagement with STEM exhibits for children three to eight years old. The project team is developing a tool for practitioners that can be used for reflection and evaluation of exhibit design, with an eye on broadening participation in early STEM engagement through play. The four-phase “Research in Service to Practice” study has received funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program.

Examining the Role of Authenticity in Informal Science Learning

2019 - 2023

The STEM Research Center and Dr. Shawn Rowe from Oregon Sea Grant are partnering with Dr. James Kisiel at California State University Long Beach (as the project lead) and Jill Stein from Reimagine Research Group to conduct a critical research synthesis on the significance of authenticity or realness for learning in informal science education settings. The Examining the Role of Authenticity in Informal Science Learning project seeks to better understand how different disciplines (e.g. learning sciences, media studies, museology, linguistics, anthropology, etc.) address authenticity and to compile existing evidence of why “the real” thing or experience may (or may not) be important for supporting informal science learning.

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.

The Circuit: A Platform for Increasing Access to, Deepening and Researching Patterns of Family and Adult Participation in Informal Science

2019 - 2023

Funded by the National Science Foundation and led by director Dr. Martin Storksdieck, Center researchers Dr. Heather Fischer and Kimberley Preston are collaborating with several partners to research and develop, a mobile phone and web-based application designed to empower families and the general public to discover the full spectrum of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) informal learning opportunities available in most communities. Currently, there are no “one-stop” search platforms for these resources. This groundbreaking resource would allow users to efficiently search a rich informal STEM database enabling them to identify resources by location, geography, age levels, science discipline, type of program, and more. This will be accomplished through the aggregation and organization of digital content from trusted informal STEM networks of content providers. The development of this app will also provide researchers with new opportunities to analyze how families and adults engage with informal STEM resources in their communities.


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.

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.

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.

AR Girls: Augmented-Reality Targeting Science

2018 - 2020

The STEM Research Center partnered with the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science, Maine Math and Science Alliance, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and the University of Wisconsin Institute for Discovery on AR Girls: Augmented-Reality Targeting Science. This three-year NSF-funded Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) project engaged middle school-aged girls in rural Maine in using technology as a science communication tool.

Gulf of Maine Research Institute LabVenture

2018 - 2023

The research team from the STEM Research Center at Oregon State University is partnering with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and TERC on a research in service to practice project funded by NSF’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program. The project is examining the impact of a longstanding, statewide science field trip program called LabVenture.

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.

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.

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.

Research and Development on Understanding STEM Identity Using Live Experiences

2017 - 2023

The goal of the Research and Development on Understanding STEM Identity Using Live Experiences project is to explore how audiences with little or no affinity for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can become more engaged with STEM ideas through live, immersive experiences. For the project, center staff and partners collected data at the Oregon Eclipse Festival in central Oregon in 2017 and the Figment Festival at Governor’s Island, NY in 2018. We also evaluated the artist and scientist in residence program and a professional development workshop about conveying science through art at the New York Academy of Science.

Curiosity Machine

2017 - 2019

Under the leadership of Drs. Kelly Riedinger and Martin Storksdieck with assistance from Victoria Bonebrake, the Center collaborated with Iridescent Learning to study the impact of project-based learning using their Curiosity Machine program on students and their families in STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics). For this project, Iridescent collaborated with the Illinois Math and Science Academy to provide students at two schools in Chicago with engineering education experiences through its Curiosity Machine platform. The research study, led by the Center, examined the Curiosity Machine as an intervention in both an after-school setting that integrates family programming, and in grades 4-8 classrooms in the two participating schools.