Dissemination and Sharing
- Just as communicating the results of an experiment is a vital practice in the sciences, communicating with the broader field of STEM education is vital to spark innovation and learning for everyone.
- Sharing with professional and stakeholder communities helps you be seen as a valuable contributor by your peers.
- It’s also a way to forge new connections and relationships and to stay “part of the conversation” around your particular STEM topic, learning approach, engagement setting, or audience focus.
What and how to “disseminate”
You can disseminate and share your project’s findings from research and evaluation; the methods or approaches you used; lessons learned, audiences reached, and challenges encountered along the way; and any products or publications.
Traditional ways of sharing include conference presentations, poster sessions, and publishing an article in a peer-reviewed journal. All of these activities have value, but there are many other options for sharing your work that may have a quicker turnaround, larger reach, or higher impact. Here are some potential products and platforms to consider:
- Blog posts
- Short articles or briefs
- Visualizations or infographics
- Practitioner guides, lesson or activity plans, or materials lists
- Online short courses
- Project websites
- Shareable evaluation instruments, protocols, or questionnaires
- Research articles, literature reviews, case studies, reference materials, or bibliographies
- Evaluation reports and logic models
- Email newsletters (your own, or those of others)
- Social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Medium, or others, depending on what’s popular with your target audience)
- Online discussion boards or communities of practice
- Small group video chats (e.g., Google Hangout, Zoom)
- In-person workshops (pre-conference or standalone)
- Conference sessions
- Poster presentations
- Speaking opportunities
Developing a strategy and plan
All of the products and platforms listed above can have great impact. However, to do them well, they all require resources—staff time, hard costs, and potentially external contractors with a specific skill set or expertise. This means you’ll likely have to choose an appropriate scope and develop a well-defined strategy to ensure that your efforts are effective.
The audience or audiences you might attempt to reach can be diverse and might include informal and formal STEM educators, learning researchers and evaluators, or policy and decision makers at the local, regional, or national level.
The Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE), another NSF-funded resource center, has an excellent Dissemination Toolkit that provides tips for creating an overall project communication plan and a dissemination plan for select products. The toolkit also has resources to help you create websites, webinars, visualizations, videos, podcasts, social media posts, and more.
Ensuring that you’re adequately resourced
Because there are costs associated with dissemination activities, it is critical to include them in your project budget! Here are some common expenses to consider:
- Writing, editing, and copyediting (especially helpful in synthesizing ideas, catching jargon, and rephrasing academic language)
- Reviewer stipends (particularly if you are creating a tool or resource that is intended for use with a specific audience; you may want representative members of that audience to give you feedback on early drafts or designs)
- Document design and layout
- Photography (photos can be used to enhance any products you create)
- Website development and maintenance
- Software subscriptions (e.g., email marketing, webinar platforms)
- Media equipment (webcams, digital cameras, high-quality audio recordings)
While it is important to tally the number of attendees, views, clicks, and downloads (and funders often require you to keep such records), make sure you consider other ways to measure impact. You can (and should) work with your project evaluator to see where it’s feasible and appropriate to incorporate surveys, interviews, or other qualitative data collection methods.
Regarding numerical data, there are active and evolving conversations among analytics and digital marketing professionals about what “success” and meaningful engagement look like for email, social media, and web traffic. To learn more, see the analytics section in CADRE’s Dissemination Toolkit, or visit popular digital marketing resources like the HubSpot blog, the Social Media Examiner, or MailChimp.
Creating resources for practitioners
Sometimes, project teams create guides, resources, and tools for practitioners as a part of their research. To ensure that practitioners find your product useful, incorporate their feedback early in the design process. They can inform the structure, content, and language, as well as suggesting complementary resources that you could create or to which you could link. You might also build formative evaluation of a product into your overall project evaluation plan. In addition, a good copy editor can flag jargon in your materials that might need to be defined and help you reframe language to be engaging to a broad audience. Finally, remember that collaboratively produced resources take additional time to create and finalize. Make sure to allow adequate time for this to happen, or you may dampen the quality of the product and risk losing buy-in from critical user communities (i.e., the potential dissemination partners listed in the section below).
How CAISE can help you share your work
We love to hear your stories, and there are a variety of ways CAISE can help share the outcomes and results of your informal STEM education project. First, you can always submit evaluation reports, research papers, project websites, and other products to InformalScience.org’s collection of 8,000+ resources. Our digital library is a growing body of knowledge around the learning sciences, STEM education, and outreach and engagement that is available to your peers and other interested stakeholders.
In addition, CAISE puts out a monthly newsletter, social media platforms (Twitter and Facebook), an active blog, periodic webinars, and conference presentations. We rely on your contributions to produce interesting content for our diverse audience.
Other outlets to share your work
Many professional membership and other national organizations host meetings and conferences, publish magazines or journals, and support online communities that can provide platforms and venues for engagement and dissemination. You can use these opportunities to reach colleagues, professionals in other fields, and diverse practitioners. Browse their websites to see what kinds of opportunities are available. At a minimum, they may be willing to share your resource or publication in an email newsletter or on their social media. Having ready-to-use promotional language and images is helpful!
Check out our list here.