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Innovations and Challenges in Project-Based STEM Education: Lessons from ITEST


For over a decade, the National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program has funded researchers and educators to build an understanding of best practices, contexts, and processes contributing to K-12 students’ motivation and participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) activities that lead to STEM career pathways. The outcomes from these projects have contributed significantly to the national body of knowledge about strategies, successes, models, and interventions that support and encourage youth to pursue STEM careers. While the individual projects discussed in this special issue vary by geographic location, institution, populations served, primary focus, and topic, they are unified by ITEST’s programmatic intent and goals. This issue offers research-based insights into the knowledge generated by a decade of ITEST-funded work in STEM career development. The articles describe a multitude of approaches to project design, evaluation, and empirical research. Collectively, they contribute to the development of frameworks for STEM education and workforce development that are increasingly relevant for educators, project designers, researchers, and policy makers. The ITEST program has enabled creativity, experimentation, and cultural responsiveness in STEM education and workforce development and broadened participation in STEM initiatives to Native American communities, underresourced urban communities, girls, and populations underrepresented in STEM fields. By approaching research and evaluation with flexibility and resourcefulness, the authors provide empirical evidence for the value of innovative approaches to STEM education that promote STEM interest and career-related outcomes and that build the foundational skills of the scientific and engineering workforce of the future.

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  1. The US H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT.


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The authors gratefully acknowledge Joyce Malyn-Smith and Sarita Pillai of the STEM Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at EDC for their critical editing support.

This material is based upon work supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1312022. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Caroline E. Parker.

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Connors-Kellgren, A., Parker, C.E., Blustein, D.L. et al. Innovations and Challenges in Project-Based STEM Education: Lessons from ITEST. J Sci Educ Technol 25, 825–832 (2016).

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