STEM TIG WEEK: CAISE’s Work to Support Evaluation in Informal STEM Learning Settings by Jamie Bell and Sasha Palmquist

Screenshot of the website they launched in 2012

Hello, we are Jamie Bell and Sasha Palmquist from the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE), the resource center for the National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program. Our work to support evaluation of informal STEM education has taken many forms since the launch of our InformalScience.org website in 2012. Resources such as the Principal Investigator’s Guide to Managing Evaluation in Informal STEM Learning Projects continue to attract and engage users as do the Design Evaluation pages. 

Where we Started 

Much of CAISE’s work has been informed by the participation and input of professionals working across a variety of informal STEM education (ISE) settings. We bring people together in a variety of formats including small, in-person convenings, AISL program PI meeting sessions and online forums. These gatherings have been designed to identify, discuss and document areas of need, traction and opportunity in evaluation, assessment and research in our field.  Events like these have played a role in catalyzing others to organize and more deeply investigate specific areas of interest and challenge, such as common measures. Our gatherings and resources have also informed reflective scholarship on evaluation, as in last year’s AEA New Directions for Evaluation journal special issue on Evaluation in Informal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education.

What we’ve Learned

From our own evaluation of CAISE and ongoing feedback from the community we have discovered that what folks most value from the resource center are synthetic, digestible materials and tools that reflect input from a range of perspectives across adjacent fields. Hence, with renewed funding in 2016, CAISE invited researchers, practitioners and evaluators from the science communication field to work with their ISE counterparts in task forces convened to create new resources to support and inform critical perspectives on broadening participation in STEM, more equitable relationships between researchers, practitioners and the communities that they serve, and enhanced understanding of the measurement of constructs that designers and evaluators of experiences and settings are targeting or taking into account in their projects and programs. 

A year’s worth of online meetings followed by an in-person convening resulted in the development of a suite of recorded and transcribed interviews on STEM identity, interest and engagement, curated, compiled and edited to portray the range of theoretical underpinnings and measurement approaches that evaluation professionals can reference as they work with program and project leaders targeting these constructs to clarify their goals and strategies for achieving and assessing them. As you’ll see throughout the evaluation-related pages on InformalScience.org, CAISE is primarily committed to tracking, sharing and making connections between the work of others. We invite the community to browse the wide range of evaluation reports that make up our growing repository and spread the word that we continue to welcome new ones as endeavor to build knowledge and capacity for the field. We hope that our resources provide a complement to the STEM TIG Access Repository and we welcome all questions, suggestions and comments to caise@informalscience.org.


The American Evaluation Association is celebrating STEM Education and Training TIG Week with our colleagues in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education and Training Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our STEM Education and Training 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.

1 thought on “STEM TIG WEEK: CAISE’s Work to Support Evaluation in Informal STEM Learning Settings by Jamie Bell and Sasha Palmquist”

  1. CAISE has been a go-to source for useful resources for me, going on 10 years or so at this point. Jamie and his team are great contributors to the community of out-of-school learning and evaluation of OST STEM programming.

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