In the third and final breakout session of the convocation, the representatives of each of the three sectors were asked to meet separately and discuss how the theme of STEM Learning Is Everywhere might apply to the formal, informal, and afterschool sectors. Each breakout group was asked to address the following questions:
- How could they interact with the members of other sectors?
- What could be measurable outcomes of those interactions six weeks, six months, and one year in the future?
- How could online resources contribute to these outcomes?
In the convocation’s final plenary session, reporters for the three breakout groups then recounted their groups’ observations and conclusions.
The group from the informal sector spent much of its time developing a single transformative idea, said Margaret Honey, who reported for the group. Today, the conversation about education dwells largely on testing and evidence. But the developers of assessments have not been able to produce a high-quality standardized measure that can be used broadly across contexts. The way out of this dilemma, said Honey, is to change the conversation by producing “a very different vision of what counts as learning.” This learning would be inquiry-based, student-centered, self-
reflective, rigorous, and comprehensive. The evidence base would consist of portfolios documenting student learning, not a single number on a test.
Many resources would be available to achieve this objective, such as mapping of the field and new social media tools. But the more general resource is that the informal sector has the opportunity to engage young people in what Honey called “a very expansive notion of learning.”
As Elizabeth Stage said, in following up on Honey’s presentation, “it’s the vision of science learning that needs to change…. If we could change that vision, we could leverage all the public investment and private and independent investment … to be a game changer.” California is especially well positioned to lead this movement, Stage continued, because the legislature and governor would look favorably on such a plan and funding support is available. In this way, California could act as a pilot for other states in fostering cross-sector collaboration.
The afterschool sector has much to contribute to cross-sector collaboration, said Ellie Mitchell, director of the Maryland Out of School Time Network. “The theme of the conversation was doing what we do best so we can be successful jointly,” she said.1
A working group of key stakeholders from each of the three sectors would provide an opportunity to learn more about each other and frame future work, said Mitchell. This working group then could be represented at both formal and informal convenings, such as the meetings of the National AfterSchool Association,2 the National Science Teachers Association,3 and the Midwest Afterschool Science Academy.4 In addition, it could reach out to the National Research Council, National Science Foundation, and other organizations to discuss inclusion of cross-sector partnership language in solicitations and on review panels.
In the longer term, the group could define a message and framework for collaboration and start surfacing potential outcomes specific to the afterschool sector, Mitchell reported. Vision statements, issue briefs, and other materials could focus on the contributions of afterschool STEM programming and collaboration among sectors.
The breakout group suggested that one aspect of cross-sector collabo-
1The PowerPoint file used for this reporting session is available at http://www.samueli.org/stemconference/documents/After_School_Sector_Perpectives_on_Action_Items.pdf [June 2014].
ration could be to analyze the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards to identify elements where the afterschool sector is best poised to collaborate and support common efforts. In addition, opportunities for joint professional development could have both immediate and long-term benefits in generating new knowledge through research and development. “Afterschool is a place for innovation,” said Mitchell, “and we could be leaders in that R&D effort.”
Finally, these collaborative efforts need a “clarion call” that expresses the new vision of STEM learning, Mitchell said, with champions leading the effort but everyone contributing.
Cross-sector research around network improvement communities can help the entire STEM learning system move forward collectively, said Christina Trecha, director of the San Diego Science Project at the University of California, San Diego.5 These networks can in turn provide the support that will enable progress to be sustainable, she said.
In addition, communications between the informal and formal sectors could increase awareness of the need for an institutionally supported culture of informal professional educators. “The formal education sector is really interested in having that conversation,” said Trecha. Higher education could offer a bridge between the informal and formal sectors, both in its preparation of educators and by working with current practitioners. For example, credentialing for educators in both the formal and informal sector could help create a supportive culture of professionalism.
In the short term, the group suggested that the formal sector could reach out to current or potential partners from different sectors and begin new conversations around collaboration to meet regional needs in STEM education. The result could be leadership teams that define action steps and templates for institutional reforms.
In the medium term, the sectors could work on a strategic plan with an explicit goal of using research-based evaluations to share lessons learned locally with larger STEM networks. This could represent an initial cycle of inquiry, Trecha said. “‘Trying things on’ is a term that we use in the San Diego Science Project: Trying things on, seeing if they work, and trying them on again,” she commented.
In the long term, cross-sector collaborations could lead to new activities or approaches that engage multiple sectors, from the scale of a single
5The PowerPoint file for this reporting out session is available at http://www.samueli.org/stemconference/documents/Formal%20Sector_Perspectives_on_Action_Items.pdf [June 2014].
teacher to a statewide network, Trecha noted. No matter what the scale of this engagement, the experiences resulting from this implementation phase would provide lessons from which all can learn, even teachers and school systems without ready access to such networks.
Finally, the breakout group suggested the establishment of an online searchable database to identify working models, similarities among approaches, and new innovations.