STEM Week: Disa Cornish on Statewide STEM Initiative Evaluations

My name is Disa Cornish, PhD. I am the Program Evaluation Manager at the Center for Social & Behavioral Research (CSBR) at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). I coordinate the Iowa STEM Monitoring Project. The purpose of the Monitoring Project is to systematically observe a series of defined metrics and sources to examine changes regarding STEM education and economic development in Iowa. In particular, I work alongside the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, a group of stakeholders in STEM education and economic development from across the state. The STEM Monitoring Project includes four primary components:

1) The Iowa STEM Indicators System (ISIS) to track publicly available data related K-16 STEM education and the STEM workforce pipeline;

2) A statewide survey of public attitudes toward STEM, to be conducted annually;

3) The statewide STEM student interest inventory added to the annual Iowa Assessments; and

4) Regional/Scale-Up Program process and outcomes data collection and analysis.

Lessons Learned: Collaboration is key. Evaluation of large-scale projects involves a lot of (rapidly) moving parts. When conducting evaluation of a statewide initiative, there are many strands to keep track of in terms of methods, sources of data, analysis, and dissemination strategies. The Iowa STEM Monitoring Project is a collaborative effort between partners at three different universities. We are all responsible for portions of the Monitoring Project and we are successful because of frequent, high-quality communication. In addition, I reached out to evaluators of other state STEM initiatives about their work. Having a network of supportive colleagues who were grappling with some of the same issues was very helpful.

Know the field. In order to know what indicators would be helpful in a statewide STEM monitoring project, we needed to know what national indicators were already being measured and tracked. What were other states doing

Rad Resource: With the rapid evolution of STEM evaluation (and STEM education programming), it’s important to stay current. is a fantastic resource. Their tagline is “the one stop shop for STEM information” and it’s quite true. There are state-by-state guides to STEM initiatives and programs, and news from the world of STEM education.

Change the Equation is an organization that works with the business community to improve STEM education. Their site has a wealth of information related to STEM education, including state-specific data. I especially like their Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy and their Design Principles Rubric.

Hot Tip:

At Evaluation 2013, a new type of session will be offered. Birds of a Feather Gatherings (aka idea exchanges or networking tables) are a chance for attendees to share ideas and learn from one another. There is no formal presentation, but there is a designated facilitator to get the conversation started.

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.

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