Summaries from the Science Learning+ Open Space Event

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June 19th, 2014

On May 24, the NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program convened a group of 29 informal STEM education stakeholders interested in the Science Learning+ solicitation to identify and discuss areas and questions of common interest that bridge informal learning research and practice. The meeting used an open space process to achieve these outcomes. The following is a summary of the topics that emerged, which were then discussed in breakout sessions. A version of this summary was also posted to the Science Learning+ page, where others can contribute to the conversation with UK-based colleagues.

Underserved Communities + Cross Cultural Collaborations

Participants in this group discussed how to learn from existing organizations that work with underserved communities in order to create sustainable programming that is relevant to that community. Programs can leverage the science that is already being learned and/or done by members of the community (sometimes unknowingly) and use it as a starting point for learning. Programs should address local concerns, and partnerships are encouraged.

Online/Mobile Technologies for STEM Learning

This group discussed the role of technology within the ecology of STEM learning. Learning technologies can take a variety of forms, including social media and web resources, digital badging, and augmented reality. Some of these technologies are increasingly being used/thought of as tools for bridging formal and informal sectors.


This group discussed the need to fully harness the power of technology and data in order to assess science learning. Assessment tools should be designed to capture a variety of outcomes and experiences related to both cognitive and social development. They should also be sensitive, but generalizable. A question that arose was whether we can take learning analytics to a larger scale, using modern research tools.

Professional Development Across and Connecting Sectors

Opportunities identified in this space included connecting with teacher preparation programs and epistemologies, and developing a framework of thinking that helps different stakeholders clarify their identities as science educators. Some potential challenges include how to connect with teacher preparation programs and epistemologies, and developing a framework of thinking that helps different stakeholders clarify their identities as a science educators.

Cross Context

This group discussed the many opportunities and contexts for individual learners to engage with STEM content. An interesting challenge is around identifying strategies to facilitate connections between these contexts (whether they are intentional or not) and developing a common design framework that could bridge across contexts.

Scientist Engagement

Participants in this group were interested in building an infrastructure (including leveraging existing assets) to support scientists’ communication and engagement with the public. Potential impacts of projects within this space include research done around the most effective ways for scientists to participate in ISE-related activities, with resources appropriated to the most effective methods.

Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) Opportunities

This group identified opportunities to develop an international community of practice around using a common understanding of arts-based learning to spark innovative STEM learning interventions and to develop collaborative research projects on their impacts. They also discussed the opportunity to engage the arts as a medium and platform for cross-disciplinary learning and innovation, and to use arts-based learning to inform the development of an integrated research/practice-based STEM education innovation agenda.