Professional Development Group

NCIL develops projects designed to strengthen the infrastructure of STEM education. Its staff has over twenty years of experience designing and implementing a variety of exemplary professional development experiences for classroom teachers, informal educators, and scientists and engineers. Workshops are designed to improve individual skills, address issues confronting STEM education and foster collaboration and the development of communities of practice (CoPs).

Our learning model for classroom teachers is based upon research on best practices in professional development. It includes active learning, opportunities to collaborate with peers and reflect on teaching practices, collective participation, focus on content knowledge, and classroom-based curriculum projects. It also includes strong alignment with educational standards, youth involvement through out-of-school-time (OST) experiences, and STEM career connections. Studies have highlighted the importance of promoting CoPs and collaborations among teacher participants during professional development focused on innovative applications of technology. Collaborations with STEM professionals and local citizens in the community are also important.

NCIL's extensive portfolio of exhibitions (e.g. Giant Worlds and Great Balls of Fire) have included the development of standards-based enrichment activities, in-person and virtual workshops, downloadable science resources, and connections for bringing scientists and other public programs to host venues. Workshops usually include a training session on the art and science of facilitated learning in informal settings and a discussion of informal learning theory (non-formal, free-choice, self-directed, facilitated, situated) and authentic task practice with role-playing scenarios.

NCIL's staff has been involved in supporting the involvement of research scientists in STEM education through a long-running professional development workshop series (1995-2004) and by involving scientists as key advisors on exhibitions and education programs. With funding from NASA and later from NSF's Geosciences Directorate, we developed, implemented, and evaluated four-day workshops to educate participants about the critical issues facing STEM education reform efforts. More than 300 people participated, including earth and space scientists, NASA mission education leads, and educators. NCIL is currently developing a conference series on expanding STEM participation by underrepresented populations.

Current Projects

  • Giant Worlds: A Voyage to the Outer Solar System (Funding: NSF and NASA)
  • Space Weather Outreach and Discover Space (Funding: NSF)
  • Great Balls of Fire: Comets, Asteroids, and Meteors (Funding: NSF and NASA)
  • STAR Library Education Network: a hands-on learning program for libraries and their communities (Funding: NSF)
  • Latino STEM Network: A national network of STEM educators and scientists involved in increasing the participation of Latinos in STEM education resources and careers (Funding: private funders)