published November 21, 2012

New NSF-Supported Effort to Study Successful STEM Networks

The National Science Foundation has funded the University of Southern California, under the leadership of higher education change and reform expert, Dr. Adrianna Kezar, to examine ways to spread STEM education reform through the use of networks. The proposed project will examine and compare 4 long-standing and successful undergraduate STEM reform networks (SENCER, PKAL, BioQUEST, and POGIL) that have different designs but with a common purpose in order to understand how the networks can be most effectively designed to spread innovations among network members and ultimately on the campuses where they are employed.

The three research questions examined are: 1. How do network members and network leaders perceive undergraduate STEM network design shape the ability to achieve goals? 2. What are the perceived benefits of participation in a network related to change for the individual network members and their campus? 3. How do networks form and how are they sustained in ways that help them achieve their goals? In order to address these research questions, a mixed-methods study will be conducted: a survey of participants within the networks; and interviews with network leaders. The study will provide information to inform the STEM community in terms of better network development as well as help NSF direct their funding priorities. This study will also provide needed information about created or non-organic networks and their ability to foster innovation and change.

Danielle Kraus Tarka (pictured) will serve as SENCER's liaison to the project, and David Burns, Eliza Reilly, and Terry McGuire will serve as SENCER's advisory board representatives for the study.