STEM Ed Centers: A National Conversation > Center Profiles > Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning, Oregon State University
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Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning

Our focus is on research about learning in all places (in and out of school) and throughout the lifespan.

Headquartered at Oregon State University
Established: 2012

Profile submitted by Julie Risien, Assistant Director

Vision and Goals

The Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning has a mission to conduct research and development that leads to enhanced understanding of the processes that underlie how individuals with diverse life circumstances and identities become lifelong STEM learners, STEM practitioners and STEM researchers as well as the structures and mechanisms that lead to achieving these outcomes. The OSU Center is unique among STEM center counterparts in its focus on research and commitment to understanding learning across all settings (in and out of school) and throughout the lifespan.

Center/Program Structure

Our Center operates a non-teaching research unit under Oregon State University's Vice President for Research. Oregon State is an R1 University with strong research in the STEM disciplines. The Center currently has two faculty, a Director and Assistant Director for a total of .75 FTE soon to be doubled to 1.5 FTE. The Center has two types of affiliates, investigators, and partners. The Center is currently growing the OSU campus community around STEM learning research and expects to foster future partnerships outside of academia.

The Center for Research on Life-Long STEM Learning is a collaborative effort spanning the OSU community that broadly tackles issues of both academic learning and public understanding of STEM fields through free-choice learning. The Center is particularly interested in the development of critical thinking, complex reasoning, and other higher level cognitive processes crucial to professionals and citizens of the 21st century. Bringing together OSU colleagues from all disciplines, departments and units with an interest in STEM learning, this Center provides an arena for the cross-pollination of ideas, a wider-base of expertise to address cross-cutting challenges and a forum for the development of new projects. Any area of research that broadly addresses these challenges will find a welcome home in the Center.

The Center paves the way for new ideas in lifelong STEM learning research and innovation to be presented, debated and disseminated in a supportive and collaborative environment. The Center promotes and advocates for the importance of innovation and improvement in STEM education through fundamental and applied research in lifelong STEM learning both within and beyond the OSU community. Importantly, the Center strives to provide real support to investigators, tangible mechanisms for supporting existing research as well as an infrastructure for attracting additional research funding. The Center provides a platform for broadly sharing OSU research to interested national and international audience.

Description of Programming

Current programs include internal infrastructure and capacity building, campus community building, Lifelong STEM Learning seminar and forum series, a campus-wide "broader impacts" initiative, and research in the free-choice learning arena. We currently work primarily with higher ed faculty; however research breadth is emphasized including learning in all settings (in and out of school) and throughout the lifespan.

The community of interested faculty is about 150, with about 30 actively engaged faculty.

Successes and Impacts

The OSU Center for Research for Lifelong STEM Learning with support from the OSU Research Office and
in collaboration with OSU Outreach and Engagement, convened a "Broader Impacts Invitational
Workshop" on December 7, 2012. The workshop solicited opinions and perspectives from 65
participating faculty who were broadly representative of OSU's diverse disciplines and units. The goals of
the workshop were: 1) to move OSU towards a more strategic and intellectually rigorous approach to
broader impacts; one that will measurably improve the competitiveness of OSU initiated proposals; and
2) identify the specific tools and supports investigators and units need to effectively design, implement
and evaluate quality broader impacts efforts.

Elements Contributing to Success

Supplemental Materials

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