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STEM Week: Veronica Smith on Evaluating Student Learning in STEM Subjects

I am Veronica Smith, principal of data2insight, an evaluation and research firm specializing in STEM program evaluation. We love working with organizations to design, develop and improve curricula for STEM teaching and learning. Examples of curricula we have evaluated include the NWABR Science and Ethics of Humans in Research, TechStart, and BioQuest Global Health Curriculum.

Lesson Learned: When answering questions aimed at gathering evidence of student learning, it is essential to carefully design the evauation to meet time and budget constraints, and to set stakeholder expectations regarding method limitations. Refer to What Works Clearinghouse standards as an aid for communicating the differing levels of rigor for different evaluation designs.

Rad Resource: Understanding by Design is a framework for improving student achievement that emphasizes the teacher’s critical role as a designer of student learning. We have found the UdB text and professional development workbook to be assets in design and development of standards-driven curricula. The UbD approach helps teachers clarify learning goals and devise revealing formative and summative assessments.


Hot Tip: Engaging STEM organizations early in conversations RE: evaluation alongside program and/or grant proposal development improves evaluation quality and stakeholder satisfaction and use. We offer evaluation plan development prior to submission of grant applications as a free business development service. We craft a letter of understanding indicating that if the grant is funded, our firm will be hired as the evaluator for that project. This upfront work saves time and money.

Lesson Learned: Whether a curriculum gets into the hands of teachers who can put it to work to improve STEM teaching and learning is largely dependent on where the digitial version of the curriculum lives once the curriculum is published. Program leaders are wise to develop a 1-3 year strategy for sustaining access to and updating curriculum products past the end of grant funding in order to expand their work’s reach and impact. Organizations like the American Chemistry Society track and monitor curricular resource use in order to increase and broaden the use of those resources.

Hot Tip: Northwest Association of Biomedical Research recently conducted a teacher survey asking about the best places to post and/or present curricula. National Science Teachers Assocation was one of the faves. NSTA’s website has a Freebies for Science Teachers page that might be a great location for your STEM curriculum.


Hot Tip: Just a few more days until the March 15 proposal submission deadline for Evaluation 2013. If you are having a hard time deciding between two TIGs for your submission, you can suggest that the TIGs co-sponsor your session. Choose one primary TIG and add a comment in the “other information” box suggesting that the second TIG may also be interested.

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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