We are Jim Van Haneghan (Professor and Chair, Dept. of Counseling and Instructional Sciences, University of South Alabama) and David Reider (Principal Partner with eDUCATIONDESIGN).
Over the past several years we have been part of a project that has examined a STEM summer camp that combines STEM and workforce development considerations in a population that is diverse and understudied: Students in JROTC programs. Both grass roots interests from district JROTC programs and top down interest from the armed forces led to the development of STEM programs. The program was initially locally funded but was systematically examined through funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It involved integrating STEM challenges and workforce development into a traditional JROTC summer leadership camp. Two cycles of small-scale experimental trials showed significant short-term impacts in STEM content knowledge, confidence in 21st Century Skills, and knowledge of local STEM workforce opportunities. Long-term impacts were mixed, with varied impacts related to different aspects of this complex intervention.
Part of the work done during the NSF project involved developing a logic model for replicating the project elsewhere. That opportunity was realized in a project funded by the Department of Defense to move the camp to additional JROTC programs. The program involves several components that require local input to tie the program to local STEM workforce development as well as standardized curriculum involving integrated STEM challenges and traditional JROTC activities. In the district where the program originated, there was a transformational leader who worked well with district administration, local business, foundations, state and regional career technical education organizations, and the national JROTC organization. When we started looking at transporting the model to other JROTC programs, we found that this web of relationships and district support were not always present. Further, our vision of the program involved tailoring the program to local and regional STEM related industries. Hence, we needed to look for models to evaluate not only program outcomes, but also the various people, systems, and contexts in transporting the program.
One useful perspective we found arose from considering work from “implementation Science.” Aarons and colleagues discuss “Scale- out” for evidence-based health programs (https://implementationscience.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13012-017-0640-6). They emphasize “scaling-out” rather than “scaling up” (which they view as viable only when looking at something that is simply replicated in similar settings). They discuss expansion through a focus on similarities and differences between the populations served and the systems of activities that are part of the intervention. We found that the work of Aarons and colleagues useful in conceptualizing the evaluation of the STEM camp scale-out.
Aarons and colleagues focused on different aspects of scale-out depending upon the population and the delivery system context. In our work, we are focusing on the delivery system context, because multiple systems are involved in the program, the local JROTC, the school districts, and the community work force needs vary as the program is developed in new locations. Consequently, that has led us to examine both the characteristics of the local implementation context and ways in which these characteristics can be translated into new sites. For example, in contrast to the leadership where the camp was developed, initial districts that dropped out of the expansion project, may not have had the persistent leadership that led to the development and long-term implementation of the camp in the originating district. Additionally, there were district level issues (e.g., different relationships between the JROTC programs and the districts they served). Using this framework helped us to think through how to systematically examine the camp as it is extended and tailored to differing organizational, school, and community contexts.
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