STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

Fostering Community in the STEM Talent Enhancement Program: Annual Meetings, a Community Website, and On-Line Activities

Authors: Dan Udovic, Jeremy AAsum, Clare Strawn

STEP aims to address a recognized need for substantially increasing the nation’s workforce capacity in STEM fields by increasing the number of students graduating in STEM disciplines from the nation’s universities, colleges and community colleges. The overall success of STEP depends on the development and implementation of “best practices,” which in turn depends on the development of a community of PI’s (practitioners) who share ideas, resources, and data, and who can build on each other’s successes and experiences.

The goal of this project is to facilitate the building of a "community of practice (COP)" among the scientists, administrators, student support specialists and evaluators involved in funded STEP projects.

Project activities include: (1) continuing to plan and organize annual meetings of the STEP community (in 2013 and 2014), building on lessons learned from previous STEP Grantees’ meetings; and (2) continuing to develop and expand the STEP online community by (a) increasing the usability and usefulness of the community's new website, STEP Central, (b) offering opportunities for on-line training sessions and conferencing on topics of interest to the community, and (c) encouraging the involvement of the STEP community in these online activities. We are striving to seamlessly integrate these components in the development of a community of practice. Formative evaluation of these activities will support their development, and summative evaluation will measure the increases in networking and the impact of collaboration on improvement in the implementation, dissemination and innovation of individual STEP projects.

During the project’s first six months we have (1) worked on developing a group of STEP community leaders, (2) planned the 2012 STEP Grantees Meeting so that it better supports the development of an on-going COP (e.g., through the formation of Special Interest Groups - SIGs), and (3) began the process of improving the design and usability of STEPcentral.net. Over the course of the next year, we envision: (1) substantial improvements in website design and content, (2) the development of a program of webinars and web conferences to support the community, (3) the development of vibrant set of SIGs, and (4) increased efforts to encourage interactive engagement in the online STEP community of practice.

At the poster session, there will be a table with either laptops or iPads so that meeting participants can explore STEP Central and discuss plans for the next phase with members of our project team.

Lead Author

Poster Information

  • ID: FD-6-09
  • Disciplinary Focus: Science