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STEM Week: Cindy Tananis on STEM Evaluation: Getting Traction in STEM Education Reform

Hi, I’m Cindy Tananis, founder and Director for the Collaborative for Evaluation and Assessment Capacity (CEAC) at the School of Education in the University of Pittsburgh.  CEAC has a long history of STEM education related evaluation work in P-12 and Higher Education.  Stop by and visit our website to learn more about CEAC.

STEM education reform focuses on LEARNING.  Some of the beginning logic models that theorize about this impact look deceptively simple:

Resources to change (teacher knowledge and skill, context for learning, curriculum, parental support, or any number of other intervening variables) lead to change in teaching, environmental support, learning materials, parental involvement, etc., and result in increased learning as measured by some form of achievement.

These “simple” logic models get very complex in the reality of schools and other learning organizations. There are MANY reasons for the complexity and plenty of literature about how complex relationships, processes, and structures of education really are!

Lessons Learned:


  • Are fluid, and depend on the ebb and flow of commitment and needs of the members.
  • Are unique people-driven relationships.
  • Committed partners = greater learning and greater change

Student Learning

  • Increased learning in math and science can be documented.
  • Attributing learning to specific interventions is challenging.
  • Engaged learning is accomplished through pedagogical change including participation plus buy-in.

Instructional/Institutional Change

  • Content understanding and knowledge are essential to pedagogical change, but alone are not enough.
  • Requires a willingness to take risks and be supportive of experimentation among professionals.
  • Collaboration across teachers and administrators is necessary to extend and sustain change.
  • Information must be accessible, relevant, meaningful, and applicable to the educational process.
  • Advocacy begins with individual change and grows across peer networks.
  • Dynamic continuous support systems create sustainable programs.

Educational Change

  • Existing P-16 structures and culture are resistant to sustainable change therefore continuous focused effort is needed to create systemic change
  • Institutional culture and individual beliefs and behaviors characterize a propensity for reform and are co-dependent for sustainable change.
    • Individuals and systems with the most need are the hardest to serve, often reflecting both a reform potpourri in schools and reform fatigue among educators.

Rad Resources: A more extended report explores these “lessons learned” with detail.  We have also published some additional thinking about these issues at our website.

Hot Tip:

There will be many different types of sessions at Evaluation 2013. Presenters are not limited to choosing between an oral presentation or a poster presentation. There are panels, roundtables, think tanks, ignite presentations, paper/multipaper sessions, and demonstrations, to name a few. Find out more about the types of sessions and what might be best for your proposal at the AEA website.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating STEM Education and Training TIG Week with our colleagues in the STEM Education and Training Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our STEM TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 comment

  • Steven Rogg · March 13, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Kudos on the “Lessons Learned”. They are similar to conclusions made during the NSF Systemic Initiatives. This is important and not to be ignored! Yes, the logic models shoud be increasingly detailed (complex)as our understanding develops! Nice work.


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