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 conduct applied research with a broad range of partners and nurture community toward improved systems of STEM learning for all. (Updated November 2016)

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.

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.

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 runs on about 7 FTE faculty who serve in administrative leadership and professional researchers. The Center 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. The Center also runs OSU's Research Impacts Network and ESTEME@OSU (Enhancing STEM Education at OSU) a Community of Practice the focuses on supporting improvements in instructional practices especially in large enrollment undergraduate courses.

Description of Programming

Research and Projects

As the university's central hub for interdisciplinary education research, the Center is involved in several long and short term projects. You can read about our locally, nationally, and internationally-based involvements by clicking the drop-down links below.

Funded Research

ShowBEETLES: Broad Implementation of a Professional Learning Model for Outdoor Science Programs (2017-22)ShowSTEM Matters: Investigating the Confluence of Visitor and Institutional Agendas (2016-17)ShowGLOBE: Citizen Science Needs Assessment (2017-18)ShowBringing the Universe to America's Classrooms (2016-18)ShowConnected Science Learning (2014-17)ShowAAAS Science of Team Science (2016-17)ShowUsing Big Data and Visual Analytics to Investigate the Long-term, Cascading Effects of Informal STEM Learning (2015-17)ShowCollaborative Research: An Evidence-based Informal STEM Learning (ISL) Professional Framework (2015-17)ShowShifting Departmental Culture to Re-Situate Learning and Instruction (2015-20)ShowESTEME@OSU: Enhancing STEM Education at OSU (2014-17)ShowAdvancing STEM, Creativity & Innovation Learning through SYNERGIES (2013-20)

Archived Research and Projects

ShowArchive List

Broader Impacts

ShowUnveiling Your Research Identity Workshop SeriesShowSpotlight on Broader Impacts ShowBroader Impacts: Towards a Strategic Approach for OSU (2012) and Building a Campus-wide Network (2015)

Strategic Initiatives

ShowUndergraduate Success Initiative ShowSTEM Learning Research Seminars and Forums (on-going)

Successes and Impacts

The OSU Center for Research for Lifelong STEM Learning receives 100K in administrative leadership salary support and runs a rapidly growing suite of programs funded by external federal grants from NASA and NSF, foundation support, and Oregon Department of Education collaborative projects. In 2017 our external programs amount to approximately one million dollars. Our FTE has increased from .75 in the first couple of years to more than 7 FTE today.

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.
  • Modest start up funding support from most every college dean.
  • Administrative capability to submit grants and operate independently.
  • High success rate obtaining external awards and leveraging external partnerships.
  • Engagement with key engineering education researchers.
  • Regular access to leadership in upper administration.

Supplemental Materials