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NAU Evaluation & Assessment
The NAU Evaluation & Assessment team (NAU Vice President of Research Office) focuses on strategies to measure the learning outcomes of students and teachers to inform and strengthen evidenced-based education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The team has played a key role in $17 million dollars of successfully funded grants. Federal and state agencies, as well as foundations, are more likely to support proposals with well-developed evaluation plans. Proposals that include qualified evaluators and robust evaluation methods communicate to program officers and review committees that a professionally-designed plan is in place for utilizing data to improve programs or projects (formative evaluation) as well as identifying credible and objective end-of-project findings (summative evaluation).
- Program evaluation
- Education research
- STEM programs, local, state, & national projects/programs
- Formal and informal education
- Pre-K-12 students, higher education students, teachers, administrators, program coordinators, non-profit and informal organizations, and community members. Studies conducted by the CSTL employ a broad range of both quantitative and qualitative methods of social science research. This leads to better understanding of how STEM educational programs are working, which program activities are going well, what should be improved, and the overall program value and impact. We define research as in-depth inquiry into the learning processes and educational outcomes in order to generate new knowledge.
If you are considering a STEM-related grant which has an education or outreach component, please contact us to set up a consultation. The best time to plan an evaluation is while a grant or project proposal is in the early stages of development. We know, however, that deadlines can be tight, and we will do everything we can to work within your timelines.
Capabilities Accordion Closed
Depending on the needs of your project or team, we offer:
- Program and research design and planning: Proposal development, logic modeling, selecting theories and methods appropriate to the context
- Needs assessment: Identifying the specific educational or support needs in a population or a group of people
- Formative (process)evaluation: Determining how the program is operating, whether the program being implemented as planned, what is working and what needs improvement
- Summative (outcome) evaluation: Determining whether a project or program met its goals and objectives (did it make a difference)
- Communication: Writing internal and external reports, data analysis, creating data visualizations, presenting findings to funders, project staff, stakeholders, and participants
- Learning assessments: Identifying what do students and/or teachers know, understand, and do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences
- Technical assistance and capacity building: Professional development sessions for building staff and stakeholder capacity in assessment, research, and/or evaluation
- Questionnaire and survey design: Identifying purposes, audiences, questions, and tools, both on- or off-line
- Focus groups or interviews: Selecting respondents, framing questions, facilitating, and analyzing results
- Observations: Conducted using objective or participant-observation strategies
- Classroom or site walk-throughs: Observation of set-ups, signage, participant or activity flows
- Document/Content analysis: Identifying common or contradictory themes, messages across documents
- Social Network Analysis: Identifying relationships and communication patterns within and across groups, departments, organizations, or communities
- Systems Analysis: Modeling or tracking the flow of materials, energy, or information within systems to identify ways that structures impact behavior, including feedback, unexpected consequences, and opportunities for leveraging change
We follow the American Evaluation Association (AEA) Guiding Principles for Evaluators: Systemic Inquiry, Competence, Integrity/Honesty, Respect for People, and Responsibilities for General and Public Welfare (2004). We also use the Program Evaluation Standards developed by the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (Yarborough, Shulha, Hopson & Caruthers, 2011).
Simply put, evaluation determines the merit and worth of a project or program. As the W.K. Kellogg Foundation suggests, evaluation is a learning and management tool that can and should be used from the start of the design of program through determining the program’s impact—its value and worth for the time and money invested (W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2000).
The following framework provides a general overview of the process that our evaluators employ. As this model shows, our process typically follows an iterative framework of design-test-revise.
We apply the above framework by developing a logic model for every evaluation project. The logic model acts as a tool to guide the design, implementation, and adjustment of an evaluation plan as well as the project or program being evaluated (W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2000).
Theory & methods Accordion Closed
The NAU Evaluation group uses a range of designs including qualitative, quantitative, and/or mixed methods. Our designs are grounded in theory-based and evidence-based approaches adapted to stakeholder interests, program requirements, and what makes sense for the specific context.
We draw upon various theory-based methods for evaluation, research, and assessment such as appreciative inquiry (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2004), data-based school improvement (Love, 2002), design-based research (Barab & Squire, 2004; Bell, 2004), design-based implementation research (Fishman, Penuel, Allen & Cheng, 2013), developing assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards (NAP, 2014) participatory action research (Whyte, 1991), systems-focused evaluation (Williams & Hummelbrunner, 2009), empowerment evaluation (Fetterman, 2001), and utilization-focused evaluation (Patton, 2008, 2012).
Selected projects Tab Open
Partners Tab Closed
Past & present funders Tab Closed
Future audiences Tab Closed
Selected projects Accordion Open
- Southern Nevada-Northern Arizona Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (SNNA-LSAMP) (PI Elder), funded by the National Science Foundation
- Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM): Transfers to Graduates in Engineering, Math and Science at Northern Arizona University (Transfer- GEMS) (PI Entin), funded by the National Science Foundation
- Integrative Biosciences: Genes to Environment Ph.D. Program (PIs Gehring, Whipple & Watwood)
- Research Experience for Undergraduates: Human Impacts on the Colorado Plateau: Placed Based Research and Training (PI Whipple), funded by the National Science Foundation
- Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity Program at Northern Arizona University, funded by the National Institutes of Health (PI Gibb)
Teacher preparation and induction
- Educating the STEM Teacher from Recruitment to Induction, Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program (PI Guerrero), funded by the National Science Foundation
- Rio Salado College Science and Math Innovative Learning Environment for Encore Careers in Teaching (PI Gresko), funded by the National Science Foundation
Teacher professional development
- Advanced Technical Education (ATE) Program: Geospatial Connections Promoting Advancement to Careers and Higher Education (GEOCACHE) (PIs Rubino-Hare & Blevins), funded by the National Science Foundation
- APS Stem Focus Schools for the Future (PI Kesler), funded by the APS Foundation
- Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST): Power of Data (POD) project (PI Rubino-Hare), funded by the National Science Foundation
- PLACE4FEWS – PPSR: Local Awareness and Community Engagement for Food, Energy, and Water Systems (PIs Ruddell and Ryan), Funded by the National Science Foundation
Out-of-school time education
- PLANETS – Planetary Learning that Advances the Nexus of Engineering Technology and Science (PI Clark), funded by the NASA Science Mission Directorate
Partners Accordion Closed
We have been fortunate to partner with so many wonderful organizations. If you wish to partner with us, please contact us.
- The Arboretum at Flagstaff
- Grand Canyon Trust
- Grand Canyon Youth
- Flagstaff Unified School District Camp Colton
- California State University at Dominguez Hills
- Occidental College
- Maricopa Community College District
- University of Nevada Las Vegas
- Museum of Science, Boston
- Northern Arizona University
- Physics and Astronomy
- Biological Sciences
- School of Earth Sciences and Sustainability
- School of Forestry
- Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research
- School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems (SICCS)
- College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences
Past & present funders Accordion Closed
- NSF Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP)
- NSF Advanced Technical Education (ATE)
- NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program
- NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology Engineering & Mathematics (S-STEM)
- NSF International Research Experiences for Students (IRES)
- NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)
- NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT)
- Science Foundation Arizona
- APS Foundation
- Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust
- NIH Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD)
- Arizona Department of Education Math and Science Partnerships (MSPs)
- Technology Research Initiative Fund (TRIF)
Future audiences Accordion Closed
We are always looking to continue to grow. In particular, we are interested in:
- Broader Impacts
- Informal STEM education
- Volunteer and/or community initiatives
- Higher education initiatives STEM outreach
- Communicating STEM to public audiences
- University-community partnerships
- Curriculum and instructional development
- User interface testing & evaluation
- Health and/or behavioral health
- Local, State, Regional or National Research Laboratories and Educational Agencies