Partnering with Users to Develop STEM Education Materials: Insights from Discovery Research K-12 Projects

This brief suggests practical ways of engaging teachers and other “end-users” in projects that develop materials for education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Projects described in this brief have benefited from school, district, and state users serving as Co-PIs, advisory board members, co-developers, implementation managers, data collectors, professional developers, and project emissaries to the broader field. The brief describes how K-12 end-users and decision-makers are instrumental for developing materials that will be adopted, implemented with essential fidelity, sustained at classroom and organizational levels, and scaled within and to new organizations. Moreover, users can have a valuable role at all stages of the development process, and most projects would benefit from including users in substantive roles. The report highlights several ways in which users provide key contribution and insights to the development process. For example, user feedback can:

  • align products to the priorities of potential adopters and correct flawed assumptions undergirding development
  • help design for usability and identify optimal supports for implementation
  • provide a reality check and inform design solutions, thereby reducing the tension between fidelity and implementation

In summary, when projects partner with end-users throughout the development process, they build their capacity to improve materials and design them for broad long-term use.