Reporting and Dissemination

Funding organizations typically require regular reporting on the process, progress and outcomes of your project. The National Science Foundation, for example, requires annual, semi-annual (at the discretion of the program director) and final reports. Disseminating information about your project with professional and stakeholder communities helps you be “part of the conversation” about your STEM topic, learning approach, and target audience. Preparing reports and disseminating project outcomes and findings  are opportunities - rather than a burden! - to review progress towards goals, make corrections and adjustments along the way, and identify lessons learned throughout the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the project.

Reporting

Reporting requirements will be specified by the funding organization. Expectations for the information to be included in each report should be reviewed when the funding offer is extended and on a continual basis throughout the project. Reports to funders will include narrative and financial information about the progress of the work and expenditures. Working closely with an evaluator to gather the kind of data to include in these reports provides data on your project’s accomplishments, as well as feedback to the project team about adjustments that might need to be made along the way.

  • Evaluation reports will be prepared by an evaluator, and are useful to the project team and to the funder. See detailed information about these reports on the Evaluation Reporting and Dissemination page of InformalScience.org.  

  • Progress reports: Required annually or at a specified time interval, these reports update the funder on the project activities accomplished within the time period, funds spent, milestones met, adjustments to the original plan and the work anticipated in the next time period.  These reports could include both narrative and financial components.

  • Final reports: At the conclusion of the project, the funder will require a comprehensive description of the project and financial expenditures. A final report could include a narrative description of the project; accomplishments and impacts of the project; results of research, if included in the project; dissemination activities; a list of papers or publications associated with the funding; and any potential continuation of the project and future sources of support. The financial accounting will include the major expenditures and components of the project budget.

Dissemination

Sharing the value of the project goes beyond distributing the primary products, program, exhibit or activities, or reporting the deliverables and outcomes to the funder. Dissemination communicates information to the informal STEM education and stakeholder communities about the project planning or implementation process,  findings from research, lessons learned and changes made through evaluation, methods or approaches taken, audiences reached and challenges encountered along the way. Just as communicating results of an experiment is a vital practice in the sciences, communicating with the broader field of STEM education is vital for innovation and furthering learning for everyone.

The audience for dissemination can be broad, and might include informal and formal STEM educators, learning researchers and evaluators, or policy and decision makers at the local, regional or national level.

What counts as dissemination?

Reviewing a variety of dissemination approaches and products will provide ideas for what to share about your project, how and where. CAISE’s “sister” resource center, the Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE), e.g., has created a Dissemination Toolkit that can be used in a variety of contexts. Some common dissemination activities and products include:

  • Abstracts

  • Websites, blog posts

  • Research products: articles, literature reviews, theses or dissertations, case studies, reference materials or bibliographies

  • Workshops, webinars, or conference presentations

  • Lesson/activities plans, materials lists, books/references lists

  • Evaluation reports, instruments, logic models, protocols, or questionnaires

BE SURE TO BUILD DISSEMINATION PLANS INTO YOUR PROPOSAL BUDGET!

Some common spaces where informal STEM education projects are currently sharing their work include:

  • InformalScience.org has a variety of ways to share the outcomes and results of ISE projects. These contributions create valuable resources for other informal STEM educators who can build on the community’s experience. Project “Spotlights” can be found within the News and Views area of the site. Submitting evaluation reports, project descriptions, research reports, papers, and links to project websites can be done through the “Submit Resources” button in the top right corner of the site.

  • National organizations host conferences, workshops and online communities that provide venues for dissemination, as well as professional development opportunities in informal STEM education.