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STEM TIG Week: Building capacity of STEM evaluators: The landscape of people and resources in the field by Sophia Mansori, Tracy McMahon, Evangeline Ambat, and Leslie Goodyear

Hi, we are Sophia Mansori, Tracy McMahon, Evangeline Ambat, and Leslie Goodyear from Education Development Center, along with Alexis Kaminsky from Kaminsky Consulting.

Welcome to AEA365 STEM TIG week! Our posts this week each feature a presentation or session that was held in the STEM Education and Training TIG program track at Evaluation 2018. This first post highlights a study of the landscape in the evaluation of STEM education initiatives.

We received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to do exploratory and foundational work to build a NSF STEM Evaluation Community, with the long-term goal of connecting evaluators of NSF projects and programs with each other and with the plethora of resources available. As part of our work to understand what STEM evaluators need and what’s available to them, we conducted an evaluator survey and a landscape study of NSF-funded evaluation resources. We’d like to share some of what we’ve learned!

Hot Tips:

  • Many NSF programs have Resource Centers dedicated to supporting funded and prospective projects, and the extent to which they offer evaluation resources varies greatly. EvaluATE, STELAR, and CAISE offer the most extensive compendium of resources in this area.
  • Resources come in all shapes and sizes! Resources include guides, project reports, presentations, and archived webinars. Repositories, or instrument and report databases, provide access to methods and approaches that projects have used. Explore what’s available to find what is most useful for you and your needs.
  • The majority of resources help projects develop their evaluation plan and get started. There are fewer resources that provide guidance on the later stages of evaluation, such as data analysis, evaluation use, and dissemination.

Lessons Learned:

If you are thinking about how to support STEM evaluators…

  • NSF evaluators come to their work from a range of backgrounds. Some are trained evaluators who are learning about the landscape of STEM education, while others come from STEM professions or administrative roles and are developing evaluation skills and capacities. This means that providing relevant capacity-building resources is particularly challenging.
  • NSF evaluator needs also vary based on their level of experience. “Novice” evaluators more often reported facing challenges in developing their evaluation plans, while “advanced” and “expert” evaluators shared challenges with managing clients and confronting ethical issues.
  • On average, NSF evaluators indicated that support and resources do not necessarily need to be STEM-specific. It was more important that resources such as instruments and guidance for writing proposals be tailored to STEM education and outreach. It was less critical that resources to support other evaluation activities such as analysis and reporting be STEM-specific. 

Rad Resources:

  • While NSF evaluators seek resources, they are even more interested in connecting with other evaluators to learn from colleagues and share strategies. In addition to the annual conference, AEA offers opportunities to learn and connect like Coffee Breaks webinars and eStudies.
  • The STEM Topical Interest Group has developed a resource repository. Check out what’s available, and share your own resources there.

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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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