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, Associate Director (Dr. Martin Storksdieck is the Center Director)

Vision and Goals

The center mission is to improve understanding of how all people learn STEM throughout the lifespan and across formal and informal settings.

The center was established in 2012 to work across campus to enhance OSUs capacity in STEM learning research, and the impact of this research on the practice of teaching and learning. Within the context of OSU, STEM includes the natural, physical and social sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, as single disciplines or in any combination, and extends to the integrative STEM disciplines forestry, agriculture, fisheries, (veterinary) medicine, and health sciences. The center is unique among STEM center counterparts around the country in its focus on research and its commitment to understanding learning and engagement across all settings (in and out of school) and across the lifespan, for all audiences, ranging from young to old learners, laypeople to STEM professionals, within both formal educational and free-choice learning contexts and settings. The STEM learning research focus of the center includes the diverse suite of research and evaluation efforts focused on how people with diverse backgrounds and life circumstances build knowledge and understanding about STEM, develop identities as STEM learners and dispositions to engage with STEM-related issues, and ultimately build capacity to apply that knowledge and understanding to their daily and professional lives. STEM learning research also includes the study of methods, institutions, media and people who play a role in mediating learning (e.g. schools, museums, magazines, teachers, etc.) and therefore includes research and evaluation of STEM education and science communication. The center serves as a neutral broker for a diverse and decentralized community of those who engage in STEM learning research internally at OSU by functioning as a central hub and institutional support structure, and externally by representing OSU STEM learning research at the state, national and international levels.

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 (1.0 FTE) and Associate Director (.80 FTE), a program assistant (.80 FTE), in 2016 the center expects to hire 1-2 non-teaching research faculty and 1-2 part time students. The Center has fellows who are deeply integrated into programming, planning and grant funding and affiliates who are part of the STEM Learning Research community of practice at OSU.

Description of Programming

The major initiatives at the center include 1) institutionalization of tools and capacities to expand the societal benefit or 'broader impacts' of the OSU research enterprise as related to the center mission, the OSU signature areas of distinction and land grant mission; 2) redefining and modeling undergraduate success; and 3) leadership research in both Free-choice and formal learning arenas. You can learn more about our research and projects here.

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 200, 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. Since that time the Center has been appointed to lead the OSU Research Impacts Network in partnership with the Research Office and the Division for Outreach and engagement.

Elements Contributing to Success

  • Establishment under the Research Office and distinct from any one college or department.
  • Campus culture that values free-choice learning, k-12 science and math teacher training, and instructional innovation in STEM disciplines.
  • Start up funding support from most every college dean.
  • Administrative capability to submit grants and operate independently.

Supplemental Materials