The National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL) maintains a portfolio of complementary programs aimed at improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning at all stages. The Discovery Research K-12 (DR-K12) program is DRL’s key program to support high-quality research and development on STEM learning and teaching at the elementary through high school levels. Individual research and development projects funded by the DR-K12 program can be placed on a conceptual cycle of innovation and learning that advances the development of the field of STEM learning and teaching. A single project might fit within a single stage or bridge multiple stages in the cycle of innovation and learning:
- Design, develop, test, validate, and refine materials, measurement tools, and methods, in specific contexts;
- Implement innovations; study why interventions have the impacts they have, with particular groups;
- Evaluate effectiveness; study complex phenomena, generalize;
- Synthesize lines of work; identify new insights and questions to inform new research and development; set research and development agendas; and
- Hypothesize, study and clarify phenomena of interest; frame issues; operationalize goals and constructs; develop and propose theory; conduct basic research on learning.
A key aspect of the cycle of innovation is that advances are made through the synergies of many projects with diverse goals and characteristics.
The Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE) was funded under a cooperative agreement to create a network that supports the diverse DR-K12 community and furthers the goals of the DR-K12 program. One of the goals of CADRE is to clarify where the field and various individual projects are on the cycle and to further STEM education research education along the cycle.
 Other programs in DRL’s current portfolio include the Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE), Informal Science Education (ISE), and Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) programs.
 NSF DR-K12 Solicitation, NSF08502.