STEM Week: Jack Mills on STEM Education Evaluation in Higher Education

My name is Jack Mills, PhD. I am an Independent Evaluation Consultant and I evaluate programs designed to increase participation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Programs run by and for underrepresented minority (URM) scholars are a primary focus of this work. I’m especially excited to help inaugurate the STEM Education TIG so that those of us who do this work can expand our professional network and improve our collective practice. The usual ways scientists communicate – conferences, scholarly publications and professional networks are at a relatively early stage of development for evaluators who focus on STEM education. As a result, I sense frustration among policy makers, funders and program leaders with the current state of STEM education evaluation practice.

The number of moving parts involved in the US strategic plan for science (aka, “the logic model”) is enormous, adding to the complexity of our work. STEM evaluators explore questions such as: How do our pre-K12 and higher education systems help and hinder the development of scientific talent? How does one become a scientist? What is the culture of the various scientific disciplines? What do we need to understand about the culture and background of the scholars who participate in these training programs? How should we measure change among individual program participants? How do we gauge a program’s ability to transform the success of all students at an institution? These questions call for a range of evaluative approaches and expertise.

Rad Resources: A policy group chaired by Freeman Hrabowski identifies the need for increased URM participation in STEM and a number of potential strategies. The 2010 report is available at:

Many resources for higher education programs and evaluators interested in broadening participation in STEM are available through the National Institute for General Medical Sciences:

Two scientific societies hold annual conferences for STEM college students and are an excellent place to expand networks of professionals passionate about this topic. See: and

A network of program managers, researchers and evaluators has held four meetings.  Here is a representative publication:

Hot Tip: STEM evaluations are successful if they generate insights that programs can use to improve their effectiveness and if we are able to document program outcomes in terms that are meaningful to the world of policy and funding. There is a direct connection between these imperatives and the 2013 AEA conference theme.

Hot Tip: Proposals for Evaluation 2013 are due on March 15 – a week away! This year’s theme is Evaluation Practice in the Early 21st Century. The STEM Education and Training TIG is one of 49 in AEA. To find out more about all 49 TIGs, visit the AEA website:

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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