The ITEST program through research and model-building activities seeks to build understandings of best practice factors, contexts and processes contributing to K-12 students' motivation and participation in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) core domains along with other STEM cognate domains (e.g., information and communications technology (ICT), computing, computer sciences, data analytics, among others) that inform education programs and workforce domains. The ITEST program funds foundational and applied research projects addressing the development, implementation, and dissemination of innovative strategies, tools, and models for engaging students to be aware of STEM and cognate careers, and to pursue formal school-based and informal out-of-school educational experiences to prepare for such careers. ITEST supports projects that:
- Increase students' awareness of STEM and cognate careers;
- Motivate students to pursue the appropriate education pathways for STEM and cognate careers; and/or
- Provide students with technology-rich experiences that develop disciplinary-based knowledge and practices, and non-cognitive skills (e.g., critical thinking and communication skills) needed for entering STEM workforce sectors.
ITEST projects may adopt an interdisciplinary focus on one or more STEM domains or focus on sub discipline(s) within a domain. ITEST projects must involve students, and may also include teachers. ITEST is especially interested in broadening participation of student groups from traditionally underrepresented in STEM and cognate intensive education and workforce domains. Strongly encouraged are projects that actively engage business and industry to better ensure K-12 experiences are likely to foster the skill-sets of emerging STEM and cognate careers.
ITEST supports two types of foundational and applied research projects:
- Strategies: projects that address the creation and implementation of innovative technology-related interventions
- SPrEaD (Successful Project Expansion and Dissemination): projects that support the wider and broader dissemination and examination of innovative interventions.
The ITEST program also intends to fund one Resource Center to provide technical support for all ITEST projects, to facilitate national dissemination of project outcomes, to further develop the ITEST research and development community, and to advance the mission of broadening participation in STEM careers and career education pathways.
ITEST supports projects that enhance students' interest in and capabilities to successfully pursue STEM and STEM cognate careers. A number of DRL programs also address students STEM learning in K-12 formal and informal settings but with difference emphases.
- The PreK-12 focuses on researching the development and implementation of innovative resources, models, and tools for K-12 students and teachers, primarily in formal elementary, middle, and high school settings.
- The AISL focus is on understanding design and engagement in out-of-school STEM learning and learning environments across all ages in the life span; including cross venue youth programs in grades K-12.
- The ECR emphases are on foundational research to advance our understandings of and methodologies for studying STEM learning, STEM learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and/or STEM workforce development.
The research and development goals of the ITEST program are consistent with EHR's commitment to building and expanding research foundations in STEM learning and learning environments, workforce development and broadening participation in STEM.
ITEST projects explore and test strategies and tools for fostering K-12 students' motivations, interests and capacities in STEM learning. ITEST is especially interested in broadening participation of student groups from traditionally underrepresented in STEM and cognate intensive education and workforce domains. Underrepresented groups may include, but are not limited to, women, underrepresented minorities (African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islanders) and persons with disabilities. ITEST projects may provide students with authentic, contextual experiences from in- and/or out-of-school educational settings/programs. Projects may also involve partnerships with higher education, and business and industry to enhance the development of authentic experiences that serve to build student interest in STEM.
Successful ITEST projects will engage in foundational or model-based design applied research that seeks to understand conditions and contexts that improve K-12 students' STEM learning pathways and STEM-focused career preparations and mentorships. The ITEST program is particularly interested in projects that examine the effectiveness of engaging adult volunteers with relevant disciplinary expertise from academia or industry to mentor and engage students in school, after school or out-of-school. Typically, proposals with a primary focus on workforce development for youth and on school to work transitions should be submitted to ITEST. Also encouraged are proposals that engage students in the use of cutting-edge technological tools, in computer sciences, or in providing students with work/problem based opportunities for innovative use of technology.