Skip to Main Content
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Science Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Successful Out-of-School STEM Learning: A Consensus Study

Recent national reports from the NRC, and others have highlighted ways that informal and afterschool STEM learning can support major student outcomes in STEM education. Connections to informal and afterschool offer an opportunity to extend learning beyond the classroom and school day by leveraging community supports such as afterschool and informal experiences, home environments and opportunities to encounter STEM that reside in a student’s geographic, physical, social, and (new) media environment. The NRC’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education as a blueprint for developing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) has pointed to a broader set of science outcomes for K-12 students, and two recent NRC reports on successful K-12 STEM practices have also embraced a broader perspective on STEM outcomes and STEM practices that will require a coordinated effort across the many contexts for STEM learning.

The Board on Science Education has assembled a 13 person expert committee to develop a concise primer on successful out-of-school STEM learning based on evidence of successful practice, and informed by a 2-day public workshop that explores the current evidence. The primer on best practices in out of school STEM learning will be written for policy-makers, funders, non-profit and private industry representatives, and other representatives from civic society. The primary goal of the report is to help these audiences better understand and more strategically support investments in informal and afterschool STEM education, and to encourage partnerships that promote the linking of out-of-school STEM learning to classroom- or school-based learning.

The committee on Out-of-School STEM Learning will specifically:
  • determine initial criteria for nominating successful practices to be considered at the workshop. The examples included in the workshop must be studied in enough detail to provide evidence to support claims of success.
  • identify highly successful practices in the area of STEM education in out-of-school settings, with a focus on designed settings and programs targeted at children and youth, through examination of a select set of examples.
  • initiate workshop discussions will focused on refining criteria for success, exploring models of “best practice,” and an analysis of factors that evidence indicates lead to success.
  • synthesize workshop discussions and a literature review of peer-reviewed and grey-literature publications for a short, committee-authored consensus report that outlines criteria for identifying effective out-of-school STEM settings and programs and identify those criteria for which data are readily available and those where further work is needed to develop appropriate data sources.
The committee’s report will be accompanied by major stakeholder engagement efforts conducted by the NRC, and in close collaboration with other stakeholders.

Sponsor: National Science Foundation

Eric Jolly (Chair), President, Science Museum of Minnesota
Bronwyn Bevan, Director, Exploratorium Institute for Research and Learning, San Francisco 
Jane Buikstra, Director, Center for Bioarchaeological Research, Arizona State University
Jacquelynne Eccles, Associate Dean of Faculties and Director, Center for Teaching Excellence,
    University of California, Irvine
John Falk, Director, Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning, Oregon State University
Maya Garcia, STEM Specialist, Office of the State Superintendent of Education,
    Government of the District of Columbia
Leslie Goodyear, Principal Research Scientist, EDC
Lynn Liben, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University
Milbrey McLaughlin, David Jacks Professor of Education & Public Policy, Stanford University
Vera Michalchik, Director of Research on Informal Learning Environments, SRI International
Nancy Peter, Director, Out-of-School Time Resource Center, University of Pennsylvania
Cary Sneider, Associate Research Professor, Portland State University
Jill Walshoski, Extension Educator, State 4-H Department, University of Nebraska


March 7, 2014 in Washington, DC

June 3-4, 2014 -- Workshop
Washington, DC

Commissioned Papers
Formative Assessment for STEM Learning Ecosystems: Biographical approaches as a resource for research and practice by Brigid Barron
Citizen Science and Youth Education by Rick Bonney, Tina B. Phillips, Jody Enck, Jennifer Shirk, and Nancy Trautmann
Evidence & Impact: Museum-Managed STEM Programs in Out-of-School Settings, by Bernadette Chi, Rena Dorph & Leah Reisman
Children Doing Science: Essential Idiosyncrasy and the Challenges of Assessment by David Hammer and Jennifer Radoff
Broadening Access to STEM Learning through Out-of-School Learning Environments by Laura Huerta Migus
Making and Tinkering: A Review of the Literature, by Shirin Vossoughi and Bronwyn Bevan

Michael Feder, Study Director
Joanna Roberts, Program Assistant

BOSE Home About BOSE BOSE Mission BOSE Members BOSE Staff Our Sponsors Visiting our Buildings News and Events Upcoming Events Our Work Current Projects Past Projects Commissioned Papers Publications BOSE Reports Audio and Video Work With Us Our Study Process Study Process Brochure Getting to Know the Committee Process Overview for Sponsors Guide for Study Sponsors
left imagetext captioncenter image