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Practice-and-Research (January 2013)

Beginning in 2012, CAISE embarked on a Practice-and-Research (PaR) initiative, in response to increased interest in identifying the grand challenges of informal STEM education and in exploring the possibility of creating a research agenda for the field. The initiative involved a series of activities that began with conference calls and phone interviews with practitioners and researchers who were working on research agendas or research and practice partnerships. Themes and issues raised on these calls became the discussion threads of a subsequent week-long online forum, which surfaced additional challenges and opportunities for mutually informed practice and research.

Further analysis of the content from the calls and forum informed the agendas for two in-person convenings.  The first was a mixed gathering of cross-ISE sector practitioners and researchers on January 31 and February 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. Richard Duschl, NSF Division Director, Division on Research and Learning in Formal and Informal Settings, contextualized the importance of the interplay between practice and research through the lens of a new direction at NSF to develop Core R&D areas within the Education and Human Resources (EHR) directorate.  The PaR convening participants identified areas of opportunity for further exploration and potential resource-generation, and grappled with the notion of a research and development agenda for the field writ large that would reflect the multiple agendas of the variety of informal STEM learning sectors and range of grain sizes of potential research questions that would usefully inform practice. 

The outcome of the first convening was consensus that an overarching research agenda for the informal STEM education field writ large was the wrong grain size and potentially too constraining, but that there was a great need for other structures, mechanisms and spaces where practitioners could come together to inform each other’s work.

A total of over 250 researchers, practitioners and other stakeholders participated in CAISE’s Practice-and-Research activities in 2012 and 2013. Documentation and summaries from this effort can be downloaded at the top of this page and an archive of a blog post summarizing the January 31 and February 1, 2013 convening can be found here.