STEM TIG WEEK: Evaluating Industry Engagement in STEM Education Initiatives by Lana Rucks, Imelda Castaneda-Emenaker, Michael FitzGerald, Leela Hebbar, and Thomas Singer

Greetings, we are Lana Rucks (Principal Consultant, The Rucks Group, LLC), Imelda CastanedaEmenaker (REaCHall, LLC), Michael FitzGerald (The Rucks Group, LLC), Leela Hebbar (Social Policy Research Associates (SPR)) and Thomas Singer (Sinclair Community College). Through our combined work, we are striving to illuminate methods to increase the availability of evaluation resources by identifying effective practices for industry engagement.

STEM education funded initiatives often include a goal to engage in and expand industry partnerships. While these partnerships are critical to programmatic areas such as developing curriculum, providing experiential learning opportunities, and securing equipment, there are not a commensurate number of resources available to assess the changes in or impact of these relationships.

Rad Resource #1 

For the past few years, The Rucks Group team has been working to validate a Partnership Rubric intended to quantify the involvement of industry partners. As a result, five areas or models of industry partnerships were identified:  Advisory Board, Curriculum Development &Review, Faculty Professional Development, Incubation/Entrepreneurship, Instructional Support, Program Support, Sponsored Research, and Workplace-Based Learning. These areas were initially gleaned from anecdotal insights but were later aligned with data obtained from the National Science Foundation (NSF) ATE Working Partners target research initiative. We also believe the Rubric could be applied to other external partners such as educational entities, measuring the changes in the number of partnerships and level of involvement of those partnerships in key areas.

Rad Resource #2

Through this highly innovative initiative funded by NSF ATE with the goal of increasing the engagement of students in STEM by building electric guitars (e.g., STEM Guitar Project), Imelda Castaneda-Emenaker and Thomas Singer have identified critical factors in promoting strategic collaborations. Through this work, they developed their industry partnership initiatives and formalized its industry partnership model. Moreover, the evaluation is used to develop and improve on industry partnerships while also emphasizing the importance of those partnerships. 

Hot Tip

The use of a case study method for assessing college collaborations with industry partnerships, is another viable approach for evaluating college-industry partnerships. The method was used for the SPR’s evaluation of Yavapai’s Engineered for Success Initiative, an NSF funded initiative to increase students’ opportunities for hands-on learning and to train more students to meet the workforce needs of local employers. Through the use of this method, it became apparent that the college’s on-going investment in employer engagement with leadership (e.g., Deans), staff, and faculty with the business community has helped the college maintain and grow its network of employers. Several of these employers serve on college industry councils that review curricula or host internships. Employers that hosted interns were satisfied with the interns they hired and would hire more in the future. Concurrently, students participating in the internships reported several resulting benefits, including increased awareness of workplace expectations and the interconnectedness of production processes, learning new skills, and improved problem-solving skills

Acknowledgement: It is important to note that this session was organized through the leadership of Lori Wingate, the former PI of EvaluATE, housed at Western Michigan University. Through that work, the team at EvaluATE had a vision to increase the conference submissions from evaluators from the NSF ATE community.  She had noticed a through-line in our work and facilitated our ability to collaborate on this effort.  We thank her and the other EvaluATE project team members for their work in promulgating exemplary STEM education evaluation.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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