Leading the Next Generation of Informal STEM Education Broadening Participation Efforts: A Professional Development Program for Mid-Career Professionals
As part of its overall effort to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants. In alignment with these aims, the University of Washington will design and pilot an innovative leadership development program, NextGen Broadening Participation in ISE Professional Learning Program, to develop the leadership capacity of mid-career professionals, primarily from underrepresented groups in STEM, whose work focuses on broadening participation in informal STEM education (ISE). Unlike most existing ISE leadership models, this pathways project will employ a bottom-up, iterative design approach to engage program participants and garner new insights. Formative data and analysis will be used to better understand the broadening participation context, inform the model, and develop strategies and resources necessary to best support a more diversified next generation of ISE leaders. This pilot study is timely and significant. There is currently a substantial dearth of literature on the intersection between broadening participation and mid-level professional leadership development. Likewise, there are few comparable models in the current AISL portfolio. As such, the findings from this pilot will address critical gaps in the AISL portfolio and in the field, at large. It has the potential to markedly transform the capacity and impact of next generation ISE leaders.
Over an eighteen-month period, this feasibility study will design, implement and test key aspects of the model to determine its potential for short and long term success. Using a competitive application process, twenty ISE mid-career professionals, who work primarily within broadening participation in STEM contexts, will be recruited to participate in the NextGen Broadening Participation in ISE Professional Learning Program. The year-long program includes four core components: (a) 4-day workshop, (b) four online webinars, (c) pilot projects carried out in participants' home institutions, and (d) poster presentations of projects at a national conference. A small cohort of faculty-mentors -- leaders from both research and practice in ISE broadening participation efforts -- will serve as participant mentors and play an integral role in the design and implementation of the program. Evaluative efforts will focus on documenting the efficacy of the design strategies (ex., recruitment, mentorship, social networking), the interests, needs, and professional growth of participants and the implications for broadening participation in STEM. The evaluation will be informed by data collected via interviews, surveys, focus groups, observations, content analyses of discourse, and participant deliverables. Formative and summative external evaluations will be conducted by the Garibay Group.