Design and Execution of a Design Laboratory (Learning Lab) for STEM Projects

Networked Improvement Communities (NICs) are a structure for redefining the relationship between education research and development and practice so as to more effectively address real problems in order to produce knowledge that can meaningfully contribute to improvement. This project provides an opportunity to learn how best to implement NIC principles so as to realize their potential to support STEM initiatives.

Award Number: 
1445853
Funding Period: 
February 15, 2015 to January 31, 2016
Full Description: 

Networked Improvement Communities (NICs) are a structure for redefining the relationship between education research and development and practice so as to more effectively address real problems in order to produce knowledge that can meaningfully contribute to improvement. NICs are scientific learning communities distinguished by essential characteristics: they are focused on a well-specified common aim, guided by a deep understanding of the problem and a shared working theory of how to improve it. NICs are committed to the rigor of improvement science and are coordinated to accelerate the development, testing and refinement of interventions. NICs also diffuse their knowledge to the field more rapidly and work to integrate their findings into varied educational contexts. This project provides an opportunity to learn how best to implement NIC principles so as to realize their potential to support STEM initiatives. 

A NIC Design Learning Laboratory is a series of learning sessions in which participants are convened together and are interspersed between action periods in their local contexts leading to the formation networks. At each learning session, significant knowledge about the developmental stage of NIC design and initiation is introduced. During the action periods, teams follow through on ideas introduced and plans established. Subsequent learning sessions offer design teams the opportunity for coaching on particular problems that may arise and to encounter the ideas and work to be addressed in the next developmental stage. Participants learn the ideas of NIC conceptualization and initiation by working on launching their own networks, with the training and guidance relevant to each step in NIC development provided by Carnegie and colleagues in the Learning Lab. The focus for the learning sessions includes technical skill and leadership development and forming learning community networks related to STEM goals.

At the end of the Learning Laboratory the following will be produced: 1) a NIC Design Learning Laboratory for STEM Projects that would support up to five project teams as they plan, initiate and launch NICs; 2) an Assessors Guide to document the essential elements of NICs and their expression in programmatic thinking; 3) A Design and Operational Plan and timeline for each of the participating teams guiding the establishment of their NIC as would constitute the centerpiece for their plans and possible proposal for seeking support; 4) A final report drawing upon the Developmental Evaluation and External Review.

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