ITEST Conference Event: Defining an Afterschool Research Agenda
The Education Development Center's (EDC) ITEST Learning Resource Center plans to implement a 12-month conference grant designed to engage practitioner and research groups working in afterschool programs. EDC, in partnership with the National Girls Collaborative Project and MPR Associates, Inc., proposes to convene a 3-day meeting comprised of NSF-funded ITEST grantees, researchers in STEM workforce development and informal learning, STEM industry leaders, and philanthropic organizations. A planning committee of STEM researchers, national experts on afterschool, and ITEST principal investigators will guide the planning, organization, and conference follow-up. The planning process includes a survey of the ITEST community to gather information on current practices and a literature review on the STEM workforce, informal science education, and afterschool practices. Additionally, a series of white papers on topics such as program design, professional development, partnerships, cultural implications, and sustainability are planned to engage the community in guided conversations. Project outcomes also include a cumulative project report which synthesizes the discussion topics, central research themes and questions, and recommended methodologies. The proposed research agenda is intended to direct subsequent studies in this important area of out-of-school programming and will be published on the EDC website. A web conference, as well as presentations at professional meetings and publications are planned to share findings broadly with the field. MPR Associates will conduct a mixed-methods evaluation to determine if the participant selection process resulted in an effective group of stakeholders who engaged in useful debate and active dialog. The evaluation will also determine the impact of the white papers, research agenda, and other products on the afterschool and STEM education fields. This project bridges research and practitioner communities while producing a set of white papers to serve as focal point for conference discussions and a comprehensive research agenda to guide future studies.