By Vanity Campbell
Proposal development and project management of large STEM education proposals often lack design elements to ensure sustained adoption of successful programs. The presenters shared 6 key best practices to increase the impact and systemic change anticipated of such proposals. In the past, funding agencies have encouraged a solitary cyclic model for STEM education improvement based on research, evaluation, and implementation of innovative methods. This system relied on isolated, individualized development of new methods by researchers with limited outside feedback and involvement. The dissemination of program outcomes was often passive utilizing conferences, websites, and publication to share program results. As a result, proposed solutions were unique to specific institutions and lacked transferability and scalability.
New federal agency trends are emerging in STEM education development to address limited adoption and portability and broaden dissemination. To identify best practices, the presenters researched successful practices by analyzing 75 NSF CCLI grant proposals funded in 2009, case studies of well-propagated innovations (PhET, PLTL, Peer Instruction), and a review of recent related literature. The results showed that effective propagation requires 6 key elements:
- identification of potential adopters,
- extensive plan for attracting, training, and supporting adopters,
- addresses propagation early while the program is ongoing,
- relevant instructional system elements identified,
- provides a clearly identified plan, with rationale and strategy defined,
- innovation, potential adopters, and selected strategies are aligned
As a hands-on activity, the presenters led workshop participants through an evaluation of a proposed STEM education proposal using an assessment instrument focusing on project type, target curricula, propagation activities, and plans. Participants reviewed and assessed two different proposal project summaries, and compared evaluation ratings and comments. From this exercise, participants learned that successful propagation has an intended audience, engages users, propagation plans are initiated at onset, the plan consists of an instructional system, clear and thorough plan and strategy.
Successful propagators identify potential adopters, interact with them, and support them. To achieve this, proposal planning requires interactive development, interactive dissemination, and support at three levels: individual, department, and institution. Interactive development will include partner institutions, advisory boards and beta testing. In comparison, isolated development involves primarily institutional stakeholders. An interactive dissemination plan will consists of immersive workshops, leverage professional societies, pilot sites, and foster scholarship in other faculty. Where as static dissemination should be avoided, such as dissemination of results via articles and webistes. Lastly, adequate support will assist adopters by use of networks, customizable materials, and consultation. This ensures successful adoption in contrast to adopters implementing new methods in isolation with no support for addressing challenges.
Implementing strong propagation plans can strengthen STEM education proposals and ensure sustained adoption and successful impact of active programs.
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