|Moderator||Mitchell Nathan, University of Wisconsin, Madison|
|Speaker||Gordon Kingsley, Georgia Tech|
|Panelists||Kathryn Flanagan, Space Telescope Science Institute
James Lochner, Universities Space Research Association (USRA)
Lora Bleacher, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)
Gordon Kingsley, Georgia Tech
Gordon Kingsley of Georgia Tech gave the address to begin Session 3. He started with some basic questions:
- What are institutional arrangements that provide effective platforms for facilitating successful collaborations?
- What are the barriers to accomplishing common goals across collaborating organizations? and
- How can these barriers be overcome?
“How do we govern ourselves?” he asked. “How are we going to organize ourselves collectively? And particularly, how are we going to do this around the purpose of discovery and education?”
One of the challenges facing educators and governments alike, according to Kingsley, is that the overall nature of how school programs are managed is changing. He said,
We are in an era of contention between two visions of how we should govern ourselves. A vision that is the older one of a federally centric, public-interest-oriented form of governance, and the more current resurgence of an older tradition in the United States, of a state-centric, market-oriented strategy of governance. These two views are in contention with each other. NASA itself was born at the high watermark of this federal-centric, public-interest-oriented form of governance. Our teachers and our students are experiencing the market-oriented, state-centric view of governance. They’re in the maelstrom of this debate.
When you try to transfer knowledge, you are not only trying to do an extraordinarily difficult task, but also doing it in two competing systems of governance, where our teachers are experiencing one reality, and our research scientists are experiencing another. Bridging those worlds together is a very difficult act. And so partnership—the thing I like to study—is at the heart of this relationship.
Partnership, Kingsley stated, is viewed as a policy tool by governments and their agencies. In science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, partnership and collaboration is a preferred policy tool for transferring the benefits of public research investments to education institutions and students. But this creates tension between federalism and knowledge transfer. He noted that it can result in an escalation of collaboration rhetoric, with the rhetoric outpacing the reality.
However, there is a fundamental problem, Kingsley said. The term “partnership” is ambiguous, and people bring their own values into it. “Some versions [of partnerships] were entity-based: Create a team, a group, an organization, a not-for-profit, some enterprise that will carry forward; it will be the partnership.” Kingsley added that other forms of partnership were venue based: “We will fix this school, and we are bringing all these resources together collectively to do great works.”
Kingsley continued that other definitions of partnership were process-based: “We will network. We will get together, hold hands, and exchange knowledge; I will feel your pain; you will feel my pain. It will be great; and we will have a process!”
But there were still others, “usually the people with the cash,” Kingsley said, who had a different view of partnerships: “This is a contract; it is agreement-based. You have your list of deliverables, the things you will do; I have the things I am supposed to do; this is how we will do it.”
“Now, here’s the kicker,” Kingsley said, “These were all views that were held by one federal agency; in fact, one team of federal folks engaged in the partnership.” The result was a lot of confusion. “The problem is not the ambiguity about partnership; the problem is the lack of transparency and the lack of articulation of the values that we bring to the partnership. In other words, you create all sorts of crazy expectations about, well, this is what I expect these people to do; but you don’t actually communicate those expectations.” Kingsley explained that a barrier to effective partnering is being transparent and clear. It is important to have a conversation between the critical partners to establish what each partner means by “collaboration” and “partnership.”
Kingsley said that partnering is a very old policy tool and is a preferred tool for mission science agencies. Many other countries do not use partnerships to the extent that the United States does. He explained that particularly in parliamentary systems of government, they are a lot more directive. The Ministry of Education says, “this is what you will do,” and you do it up and down the line. Why does the United States partner differently? Kingsley asked.
According to Kingsley, in the United States there is a basic tension between sovereign authority at the federal, state, and local levels and the authorized, appropriated mission to do knowledge transfer to the schools. He said,
NSF, for example, back in its early days, was goaded on by the Department of Defense in the afterglow of Sputnik: What we need are national science standards and national mathematics standards. And you, NSF, fledgling agency, should go out and do that. The NSF director at the time looked out upon that vast wilderness of sovereign authorities—of school districts, state superintendents—and said, I’ll take a pass; that looks like a little bit above my throw weight.
Kingsley echoed a theme mentioned by a number of earlier speakers about the disparity in the size of budgets available to NASA and the entire national education field. “In fact, if we took all the budgets combined of all the mission science agencies and pitted them up against K-12 education enterprises across the country, you all are going into a nuclear battle with a pea shooter,” he said.
Kingsley explained that a final barrier to the business of partnering comes from unwillingness to engage the costs of partnering. He said that a lot of teachers are “partnered out.” There are a number of reasons for the burnout. One is workflow interruptions. According to Kingsley, that creates a difficult dilemma for teachers. He speculated about what the teachers would be thinking after such a request:
You are asking me to do non-routine tasks? Am I at a point in my work life where I am ready to take on that type of thing? If so, can I absorb the interruption? And more importantly, will you remember that you assigned me to this particular project to work on behalf of our school district and not punish me later on when I am not conforming to all of the performance standards that I’m supposed to perform at?
A second issue of the cost of partnering is mutuality in absorbing what a social scientist would call transaction costs. Kingsley explained that this requires that NASA, as the provider, think through how to get people to access and use its material in a powerful way. But he also thinks that NASA may do a better job than many: “Compared to many other federal agencies and many other state agencies, NASA is actually a little bit further down the road with education outreach officers, with attempts to do some outreach directly.”
Kingsley said a lot more engineers are beginning to be involved in STEM education, and they are supporting the effective partnering process. He has seen that engineers take a strong view of risk management, and this view can be helpful, particularly in how engineers look at funding. Allocating funding evenly may not be the best approach; instead, more resources may need to be invested in one place than in another.
Another challenge is what Kingsley called “cultivation and career paths for boundary-spanners,” those who are the “sacrificial angels” that help the partnership to function. If someone crosses a boundary in their work, will it be supported in their career path? The federal government is good at this, universities less so, and local education institutions are bad at this, Kingsley believes.
“Boundary-spanners are critical because they are the glue that is holding it together.” They need support, Kingsley concluded.
The moderator for the poster session was Mitchell Nathan of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. During the poster session, the participants, panelists, and audience members were encouraged to circulate among the posters and then be prepared to return to the discussion later with their observations about what they had learned (Figure 4.1). The participants were given the following guiding questions to consider during their discussions and were provided with pages to take notes on each question for each poster:
- What are institutional arrangements that provide effective platforms for facilitating successful collaborations?
- How are evidence-based models for successful collaborations or partnerships being communicated across NASA education programs?
- How are proven models or strategies for scaling up and sustaining collaborations and partnerships being used in the NASA education programs?
- What are the barriers to accomplishing common goals across collaborating organizations? How can these barriers be overcome?
Titles and presenters for the posters are listed below. Abstracts submitted by the poster presenters prior to the workshop can be found in Appendix B.
- THEMIS GEONS Magnetometer Program: Sustaining Teacher Engagement in NASA Science for Over a Decade
- — Nancy Ali, Space Sciences Laboratory
- Space Explorers Club and Heliophysics Educator Ambassadors: Growing District and Teacher Partner Relationships for Sustainable and Significant Impacts
- — Lindsay Bartolone, Southwest Research Institute
- Mars Education: Providing an Evidence-Based Model for Authentic, STEM-Practice-based Learning
- — Catherine Bowman, Raytheon
- — Michelle Viotti, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- — Sheri Klug-Boonstra, Arizona State University
FIGURE 4.1 The workshop featured a poster session for participants to discuss various aspects of collaboration and then return to the main room for discussion. SOURCE: Harrison Dreves, NRC.
- Sharing the Adventure: Observation-Based and Data-Based Examples
- — Lin Hartung Chambers, NASA Langley Research Center
- Building Digital Age Resources Through Sustained Partnerships: MMS and ISTE
- — Troy Cline, NASA GSFC
- Best Practices from the Earth to Sky Interagency Partnership
- — Anita Davis, NASA GSFC
- — Ruth Paglierani, University of California, Berkeley
- — Sandy Spakoff, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- — John Morris, National Park Service
- Strategic Partnerships: The Key to Sustainability and Reach for SMD Education
- — Bonnie Eisenhamer, Space Telescope Science Institute
- Empowering Educators to Engage with NASA Mission Science
- — Dorian Janney, NASA GSFC
- LRO’s Lunar Workshops for Educators: A Proven Model for Exceptional Teacher Professional Development
- — Andrea Jones, NASA GSFC
- — Lora Bleacher, NASA GSFC
- — Sanlyn Buxner, Planetary Science Institute
- — Marti Canipe, University of Arizona
Explore! Engaging Children in Space Science in Libraries and Other Out-of-school Programming
- — Keliann LaConte, Lunar and Planetary Science Institute
- NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory Education, Public Engagement and Communications Program
- — Kathleen Lestition, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Chandra X-Ray Center
- Indigenous Education Institute: Collaboration with Integrity
- — Nancy C. Maryboy, Indigenous Education Institute
- — David Begay, Northern Arizona University
- Connecting GLOBE Students to Satellite Mission Partnerships
- — Tony Murphy, Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program
- NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program (NITARP): Evidence of a Successful Partnership Over a Decade
- — Luisa Rebull, NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive and Research Program
- — G.K. Squires, University of Hawaii
- — V. Gorjian, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- NASA Astrobiology Institute: Embedding E/PO in the Place of Science to Maximize Collaboration, Partnerships, and Impact
- — Daniella Scalice, NASA Astrobiology Program
Following the poster session, the audience members were encouraged to discuss with panel members what they had observed. The guiding questions and focus for this panel were taken from the poster session. Mitchell Nathan and Gordon Kingsley joined Kathryn Flanagan, James Lochner, and Lora Bleacher at the panel table.
Lora Bleacher explained that she is the education and outreach lead for the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA GSFC. James Lochner runs education programs at the Universities Space Research Association (USRA). He previously worked in the Astrophysics Division at GSFC where he developed education programs and curriculum support materials, and at NASA headquarters where he ran grant programs. Kathryn Flanagan stated that she is the deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, whose education and outreach program extends back decades. Previous speaker Gordon Kingsley of Georgia Tech explained that his current work involves looking at partnerships in knowledge transfer across engineering design teams and STEM group interactions engaged with the design teams.
Bleacher started the discussion by noting that Kingsley had covered best practices in his presentation and that she would share her own view of best practices. She said that as she walked around the poster session, she saw the importance of building trust and doing so through personal connections (e.g., site visits, in-person meetings). She emphasized the significance of having all participants buy in from the beginning and having a dedicated champion on either side of the partnership. She also noted the importance of the promotion of participants to leadership positions (i.e., people bringing leadership to the table).
Lochner explained that in walking around the poster session he often asked how a partnership got started, and often it was a matter of initial contacts and identification of needs. He noted that strong partnerships are engendered when there is a mutual identification of needs and the partners work together from the start. Kingsley pointed out that many in the audience are natural sociologists and there is no one best way in which collaborations come together.
An audience member commented that he agreed with Kingsley’s comments in his presentation that the federal-state interface has a lot of friction. Some NASA educators have explained that the reason why they are focusing on creating activities rather than lesson plans is because they do not want to be seen as stepping on the prerogatives of the different states to determine their individual requirements for curriculum and lesson plans. The audience member acknowledged that this may indeed not be NASA’s job.
Lochner stated that the cultural differences between scientists and educators can be managed when scientists understand the needs of the partner and each side is honest about its needs. At the Space Telescope Science Institute, Ph.D. outreach scientists are embedded in the team, and communication is integrated within the group. Bleacher
stated that barriers can be addressed by helping scientists to not only share their scientific work, but also share personal details so that it is easier for teachers to relate to scientists as people.
Bleacher explained that evidence-based models are shared through opportunities such as the workshop and that constant communication is important. Lochner added that one of the things that the NASA education forums realized is how important it is to communicate success stories, and by communicating these success stories they were communicating best practices. He noted that internal professional development is important and there are many ways in which leaders in the [education] community helped to build up the strength of community.
One member of the audience said that he is concerned that the opportunities for professional development may be lost. “I fear, in the new realm of this funding model of SMD,” that some things are no longer happening. “The [NASA SMD Education] forums have fostered retreats over the last several years. And our organization has hosted an annual [education and public outreach] conference that has seen dwindling attendance, because there has been less of a push, it seems, from Headquarters for folks to travel to our meetings or to some of the retreats that the forums have hosted,” he said. The audience member commented that he hopes there will still be value given to professional development workshops and other events as places to share best practices and to learn from each other.
Another member of the audience raised a question about the cultural differences between scientists and educators. “I was wondering if there have been any strategies that you have found effective in helping scientists and educators talk to each other in the same language so that scientists are not talking like they are doing peer review while educators are talking like they are supporting learners.”
A panelist replied that they have seen some attempts at improving scientist communication at Georgia Tech. “The first attempt at it did not go quite so well, largely because it consisted of sitting the faculty members down and saying, ‘Don’t talk that way. You are arrogant and condescending and unpleasant.’” A later effort was more successful. The panelist described engagements where the teacher was teaching the professor. That allowed for value to be exchanged both ways, and this changed the nature of the conversation.
Lochner commented that there are many instances where cultures clash due to language differences that are not foreign in nature. He noted that different organizations have different ways of speaking (e.g., working with Native American communities, getting planetary scientists and biologists talking). He emphasized that the right approach is important.
An audience member commented about the discussion of engaging scientists in education. Engaging a scientist can be powerful if the right scientist is in the right situation. She pointed out that some are engaging and some are not, but the ones who are not may be good at other things, such as curriculum review or blog posts. Scientists can be prepared for the audience that they will engage, and this is powerful if done well by people who know both groups and how to engage effectively. Lochner pointed out that Edna DeVore’s presentation charts sketched out ways in which scientists could be involved. He realized that he could help mediate the relationship between the scientist and the educator by knowing where training was necessary. Kathryn Flanagan stated that the Space Telescope Science Institute sometimes helps scientists with communication, and many in the science community are thinking about communication as part of their duty and as a privilege.
Another participant mentioned that GSFC tries to engage its postdocs early. “They tend to be excited and enthusiastic to begin with, a little more receptive sometimes to some constructive feedback on their presentation styles.”
Bleacher replied that at GSFC there is a lunar workshop for educators, and it tries to get postdocs immediately engaged. GSFC has also recognized the importance of communication, and the center has a partnership with the Stony Brook University Center for Communicating Science. The Stony Brook University journalism department has also been involved to train others to talk about science ongoing at GSFC.
An audience member stated that the culture has shifted for astronomers engaged in outreach. She wanted to hear how the culture has evolved and where the panelists have seen that evolution. She asked the panelists to talk about the evolution of partnerships over the past 15 years. In response, Flanagan stated that 15 years ago, missions had to spend about 1 percent of their budget on outreach, and many scientists thought this was not career enhancing. However, things have completely changed. Young scientists at the Space Telescope Sci-
ence Institute now want to do outreach. People did not know what to make of it in the beginning, but things are different now, he said.1
An audience member referenced the dedicated champion comment made previously and pointed out that one of most valuable champions is the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). She questioned the panelists about any comments that they may have about working with the PTA or other interested organizations. Bleacher agreed that champions on the PTA could be helpful and that this is an intriguing point.
An audience member noted the power of champions that was discussed earlier and pointed out that the Standards and Framework represent an opportunity for change.2 He asked the panelists what is the role of opportunity or challenge to a partnership?
Kingsley stated that windows of opportunity are taken seriously in his work. Timing and environments are important, and windows for effective change are fragile and fleeting and need to be seized when presented. Champions are also fragile because many pressures are applied to them, and the champion shelf life is short, he said.
Bleacher commented that she was encouraged by the poster sessions because they indicated the importance of making personal connections in partnerships. This included making sure that there is a dedicated champion on both sides of the partnership. She went on to say that many of the programs she saw during the poster session not only had shared goals, visions, and buy-in, but also people that were actually leading. The poster presenters were helping create the strategic vision, making the path forward, and looking for ways to increase sustainability of the program. She noticed that people were bringing not only shared resources to the table, but also their leadership.
Flanagan described the criteria that the Space Telescope Science Institute uses to choose partnerships that will be scalable and sustainable:
Our specific criteria are: Does the institution complement the work we do? Does the partner serve underrepresented or underserved populations? Does the partner demonstrate sustainability, and can it carry on independently? Will there need to be a lot of hand holding after the first year or so, or will this be able to carry on? And finally, and it’s important for us, does the partner collect follow-up data? Will they participate with us in giving us feedback and summative evaluation so we can know whether it works? And with those criteria as ideas, that is how we might embark on a particular partnership. Now, it turns out to be absolutely fundamental to the success of our scalability. We have three leveraging techniques we use that make a core team of four and a half people reach out to more than half the middle school students in the country and half the middle school teachers, one of which is the partners. One is that we do eventually have online access, and one is that we target our professional development for master teachers.
Nathan ended the session, commenting that he has noticed both the scientists’ and the educators’ points of view have changed. The scientists now see the educator professionals as being their partners and as important to bringing mission results to the public.
1 W.R. Penuel, C.J. Harris, A.H. DeBarger, Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, Phi Delta Kappan 96(6):45-49.
2 See the “Introduction and Background” chapter for a discussion of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Framework for K-12 Science Education.