Developing a Project

Projects typically evolve organically from the interests, expertise and relationships of the developers. When the timing of funding solicitations and opportunities dovetails with the emerging ideas of innovative collaborators, there is great potential for developing strong proposals and projects. Ideas for engaging  target audiences with STEM topics and processes using particular approaches often have historical precedence that can be found in the InformalScience.org repository. Evidence for what has worked for others and under what circumstances can be useful information during project planning and can also help proposers make a stronger case when writing proposals.

Assembling a Team

Project developers work in a variety of settings and sectors, and are typically exhibit or program developers, media producers, learning researchers, evaluators and/or natural or physical scientists. A successful project team includes a complementary set of expertise in the content knowledge, target audience(s), pedagogical approach, research design and evaluation strategy required to achieve the project goals and contribute to the greater knowledge of the ISE field.      

While each project will have its own specific needs in assembling a project team, here are some common roles to consider:

  • A Principal Investigator (PI) or Project Leader is responsible for the vision and overall plan for the project.
  • Co-Principal Investigators (co-PIs) share responsibilities with the Principal Investigator.  For some projects, co-PIs are from the PI’s own institution or department, while in other projects, co-PIs are collaborators who bring expertise and resources from outside institutions.
  • A Project Manager oversees the day-to-day operations, milestones, budget and reporting requirements of the project.
  • An Evaluator conducts front end and formative evaluation to inform the iterative development of a project and summative evaluation to measure the project’s impacts on its intended audience, as well as other outcomes and outputs, intended or unintended. The evaluator may also make general recommendations about the effectiveness of the learning approach or other generalizable aspects of the project.
  • Advisors bring expertise in all of the serve as thought leaders who provide input throughout the project development process.

Designers of experiences and settings are increasingly working with collaborators, learning researchers and evaluators from the beginning stages of project development. The InformalScience.org membership directory is a resource that can be used to identify the expertise and experience of potential project team members, partners and consultants, based on their previous work. Browse the InformalScience.org Member Directory to help identify potential collaborators using filters about each individual’s professional expertise and experience.

Developing an Evaluation Plan

Evaluating and/or assessing the impacts of a project on its intended audiences is best accomplished when those measuring the project’s development and outcomes are involved from the planning stages. Front end and formative evaluation can influence a project’s trajectory in ways that produce desired outcomes and outputs. The Evaluation landing page of this site contains material from the Principal Investigator’s Guide to Managing Evaluation in Informal STEM Education Projects that is helpful when developing evaluation plans.