Descriptive Overview of the DR K-12 Portfolio: Projects funded 2007-2012

The Discovery Research K-12 (DR K-12) program, funded by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL), supports research and development in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Specifically, the program seeks to enhance the learning and teaching of STEM by funding “research projects that study the development, testing, deployment, effectiveness, and/or scale-up of innovative resources, models and tools.”

The Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE) was funded by a cooperative agreement, beginning in 2008, as the resource network that supports the DR K-12 community in advancing the state of research and evaluation in STEM education, and furthering the goals of the DR K-12 program. As part of its work, CADRE annually conducts a review of the DRK-12 portfolio. The specific objectives of this review are to describe important characteristics of the projects in the DR K-12 portfolio; explore how grantees are working towards meeting the goals of the program; identify potential areas in which targeted thematic studies can be conducted to deepen, broaden, or advance the field’s understanding of specific aspects of STEM education; and inform the support activities developed for grantees. This report, a key product of the review, provides a descriptive overview of the DR K-12 portfolio.

The current report, which is the fifth and final portfolio overview to be prepared by CADRE, describes important characteristics of the first six cohorts of DR K-12 projects that received their initial funding from 2007 to 2012. It characterizes the development and research in STEM education—on resources, models, and technologies—funded by the DR K-12 program.

Approach to Conducting the Portfolio Review
CADRE’s review of DR K-12 projects has relied on extant project documentation provided by Principal Investigators (PIs). CADRE operates under a cooperative agreement with NSF (rather than a contract), and therefore does not have access to the data and materials maintained at NSF. Consequently, CADRE solicited materials directly from PIs. Each year PIs of newly funded projects were asked to provide CADRE with their project’s proposal and responses to review panel questions. Additionally, PIs of existing projects were asked to provide project updates via annual reports, publications, and other information about the project plans, activities, and achievements.

All newly submitted project materials (from both newly and previously funded projects) were systematically reviewed and coded by a team of CADRE researchers using a protocol designed to capture information on project attributes and characteristics as well as the DR K-12 program goals being addressed. Reviewers were trained and had supervised practice using a set of detailed coding definitions and instructions. Team leaders co-coded at least two projects with each reviewer to ensure a systematic approach and application of instructions and definitions across the team.