STELAR Webinar: The New Face of Research and Evaluation in ITEST Projects
Presenters: Carrie Parker, co-PI of STELAR; Kirk Knestis, evaluator with Hezel Associates for Digital East St. Louis; Bradley Barker, PI, Gwen Nugent, Co-PI, and Neal Grandgenett, Evaluator, of WearTec
Summary: With each round of revisions to the ITEST Program solicitation since the program began in 2002, the role of research and evaluation has been adjusted. In the most recent solicitation, all ITEST projects were required to include a significant research component as well as an external evaluation of the work. In addition, ITEST projects seek to broaden participation of underrepresented youth in the STEM workforce through innovative and engaging activities, and the nature of these projects requires special care in creating research designs tailored to the activities, the participants, and the local context. In this webinar, PIs and evaluators described how they are meeting the challenge of incorporating rigorous research designs and evaluations that provide useful measures of project success, all while developing dynamic activities within the ITEST framework.
Carrie Parker began the conversation by providing background information on research and evaluation in ITEST projects garnered from 12 years of work with projects (originally the ITEST Learning Resource Center and now STELAR), a brief synthesis of some of the ways in which ITEST research and evaluation have changed, and challenges that PIs and evaluators now face. Kirk Knestis presented an example of how “program evaluation” and “design and development research” might complement one another in an NSF ITEST Strategies project, when a single entity is supporting both functions. Bradley Barker, Gwen Nugent, and Neal Grandgenett described their research and evaluation efforts on a project focused on developing and testing a set of experiences around wearable technologies for late elementary school students.