Federal funding for the research identified in Successful K-12 STEM Education
Indicator 14 calls for new research to fill critical gaps in knowledge about programs and practices that contribute to student learning and to the other goals of STEM education. It is based on the Monitoring Progress recommendation for a robust and strategic research agenda for K-12 STEM education that would: 1) disentangle the effects of school practice from student selection, 2) recognize the importance of contextual variables, and 3) allow for longitudinal assessments of student outcomes.
Related DCL Awards (1): Taylor & Kowalski
Indicator 14 is identified as a high priority in the Monitoring Progress report. In addition, the recent 5-Year Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Strategic Plan produced by the Administration (National Science and Technology Council, 2013) recommends investing in breakthrough research on STEM teaching and learning.
Additional discussion is needed before an operational definition of Indicator 14 can be solidified. Consensus is needed on the boundaries of what constitutes “research” as opposed to services, demonstration, or advocacy and whether research activities in all federal agencies or only those of the NSF, Department of Education, and Smithsonian should be examined. Finally, agreement is needed on whether to try to estimate the total investment in K-12 STEM education research or to focus more narrowly on research exhibiting the three characteristics advocated by the Successful K-12 STEM Education working group. Attempts to measure the latter would require a labor-intensive examination of project abstracts and reports for funded projects. Experts that were interviewed proposed focusing on generalizability, attention to context, and longitudinal assessment as criteria for defining a robust and strategic research agenda in K-12 STEM education. Such a definition should not be construed as not valuing exploratory work.
As a part of their DCL award, Kowalski and Taylor are producing baseline data on the extent to which federal agencies have funded the kinds of research called for in the NRC report. They will review the current evidence base on the indicator and its measurement and may produce recommendations for the creation of measures for the indicator.