(CLOSED) Limited Submission: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)

The AISL program seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning opportunities for the public in informal environments; provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; and advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments.

The program supports six types of projects:

  1. Pilots and Feasibility StudiesThese projects offer opportunities for practitioners and researchers to investigate issues in and approaches to informal STEM learning and to establish the basis for future research, design, and development of innovations or approaches. Such initial exploratory development work and pilot or feasibility studies should produce evidence, findings, and/or prototype deliverables that help the team make critical decisions about future work. These proposals may include high risk strategies or methods that need exploration (piloting) before further research and development is justifiable.The proposal needs to explicitly identify the critical risks/challenges that will be addressed and state how the project will inform future work of the PI and team and, if successful, may lead to Research in Service to Practice, Innovations in Development, or Broad Implementation proposals. Pilots and Feasibility Studies should not be viewed as small-scale versions of these other proposal types. In addition, because the NSF EAGER proposal type can be similar to this category, applicants are encouraged to read about the EAGER type of proposal in the PAPPG (Chapter II.E.2) and talk to an AISL program officer (PO).The AISL Pilots and Feasibility Studies proposals are consistent with the Early Stages and Exploratory type of research and development in the Common Guidelines for Educational Research and Development (IES and NSF, 2013).
  2. Research in Service to Practice

    The Research in Service to Practice (RSP) project type focuses on research that advances knowledge and the evidence base for practices, assumptions, broadening participation, or emerging educational arrangements in STEM learning in informal environments, including the science of science communication (NAS, 2017). For these proposals it is important for practice to inform the research as well as having research inform practice. Genuine partnerships between researchers and practitioners are required, such that the project is important and relevant to both research and practice.Research takes many forms and occurs at different scales. While the range for funding is quite broad, applicants should consider small and medium scale investigations depending on the nature of research questions and focus.Proposals submitted under this project type:-  must include a review of the literature and the underlying theoretical framework that informs the research plan. Proposals should detail research methods, including sampling, qualitative, quantitative, or iterative design-based data collection and analysis plans, as appropriate.
    –  may be qualitative or quantitative; involve methodological advances; develop or adapt assessment instruments or scales; use large databases; aggregate data across multiple or distributed settings; focus on post-hoc analyses of existing data; or conduct longitudinal studies that shed light on the impact of STEM learning activities on participants, institutions, or systems.
    –  may test the reproducibility of important findings. AISL particularly encourages projects that provide research findings and recommendations that are useful for informal STEM education practitioners, researchers, and decision-makers.

    These types of projects often include a range of data to be collected and analyzed. To ensure clarity about the connections between the research questions, data, and analysis, consider including a table summarizing this information.

    Research in Service to Practice proposals are consistent with the Design and Development type of research and development in the Common Guidelines for Educational Research and Development.

  3. Innovations in Development

    The Innovations in Development project type is expected to result in deliverables such as exhibits, media products, after school programs, etc., and in innovative models, programs, technologies, assessments, resources, or systems for an area of STEM learning in informal environments. As R&D projects, proposals should describe activities for the design and development of new or improved innovations or approaches to achieve specific goals related to STEM learning, engagement, and capacity building. These proposals build on evidence from the team’s or the field’s prior research, design, practice, and development work. It is understood that innovations take many forms and occur at different scales. While the range for funding is quite broad, applicants should consider small and medium scale innovations depending on the nature of what is being innovated.An explicit theoretical framework as well as either a logic model or theory of action should guide projects. In addition, proposals must articulate a plan and process for the design, development, implementation, and evidence-building components (based on research, evaluation, or both) of the proposed work. Iterative, design-based research approaches are encouraged, if appropriate.Innovations in Development proposals are consistent with the Design and Development type of research and development in the Common Guidelines for Educational Research and Development.NOTES: Innovations in Development proposals differ from Research in Service to Practice proposals in that Innovations in Development projects focus on and leverage the development of a product, model, tool, or resource to better understand and inform practice. These deliverables are expected to have a service life beyond NSF funding.

    On the other hand, Research in Service to Practice projects have at their core a compelling research question about practice, about how people learn, and/or about specific learning environments. For this project type, most of the focus and effort are centered on the research. If products are developed, there is no expectation that they will have a lifetime after the completion of the research.

  4. Broad Implementation
    n
    The Broad Implementation project type supports the expansion or reach of models, programs, technologies, assessments, resources, research, or systems that have a documented record of success, innovation, or evidence-based knowledge building. The focus is on making innovations or approaches succeed when they are implemented at a larger scale. Sources of evidence may include summative evaluation or research data that indicate readiness for distribution to a broader population or new setting(s) and should be summarized in the proposal narrative.When thinking about the focus for expansion, consider: geography, age, socio-economic status, cultural or linguistic group, race and ethnicity, gender, disability, learning setting, or another dimension. Where appropriate, investigators are encouraged to emphasize individuals from underrepresented or underserved groups as a target audience for a component or for the entire focus of the project.Proposals must articulate a plan and process for the design, development, implementation, and evidence-building components of the proposed work. Project design may address innovative integration, incremental improvements, adaptations, or trials under typical conditions. Iterative, design-based, and improvement research approaches are encouraged. Proposals should discuss how evidence will be collected to understand the mechanisms enabling broad implementation.Broad Implementation proposals are consistent with the Design and Development or Efficacy and Effectiveness types of research and development in the Common Guidelines for Educational Research and Development.
  5. Literature Reviews, Syntheses, or Meta-analyses

    AISL supports capacity building through literature reviews, syntheses, and meta-analyses directly related to the goals of the AISL program. Applicants should be clear about which type of proposal they are submitting. A proposal should focus on a question, issue, or topic of critical importance to the AISL program.Proposals should demonstrate a command of the literature on the question, issue, or topic, both breadth and depth. This background should be used to make a case for the amount, type, and relevance of available literature to conduct the literature review, synthesis, or meta-analysis. Literature selection processes (methods, search criteria, etc.) and quality and inclusion criteria (peer review, conference work, reports, evaluations, other) should be discussed. Investigators are permitted, but not required, to propose workshops and other meetings as one of the means of doing the work or as part of diffusing the knowledge that is developed from these projects.
    n
  6. Conferences

    Conference proposals should demonstrate a command of the literature and/or practice of the question, issue, or topic. Participant expertise and selection should be discussed. Conference proposals should include a conceptual framework for the conference, draft agenda, possible participant list, and the outcomes or products that will result.All proposals in this category should address the need for the work, why it is timely, and the expected contributions to understanding or advancing the question, issue, or topic. All projects should generate a product usable by researchers and/or practitioners and indicate how these product(s) serve the AISL program priorities described earlier in this document.NOTE: For Conferences with budgets over $75K, proposals should be submitted for review by the deadline dates listed at the beginning of this solicitation. Conferences with budgets under $75K are evaluated on an ad hoc basis and may be submitted at any time (not only to the competition deadline), generally at least one year in advance of when the event would be held. Investigators are strongly encouraged to contact a Program Officer prior to submission.

Please read the full program announcement before preparing your internal application.

Award Amount

  • Upper $3,000,000 USD
  • Lower $150,000 USD
  • Estimated Number of Awards: 60 to 85

Pending availability of funds, it is anticipated that about 15-20 Pilots and Feasibility Studies awards, 8-10 Research in Service To Practice awards, 10-15 Innovations in Development awards, 4-6 Broad Implementation awards, 8-10 Literature Reviews, Syntheses, and/or Meta-analyses awards, and 12-18 Conference awards will be made. AISL will also fund 8-10 awards made through the EAGER, RAPID, Research Coordination Networks (RCN) mechanisms and 2-4 each CAREER awards and REU supplements.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $33,000,000 to $44,000,000

Limits for funding requests of AISL proposals are as follows: (1) Pilots and Feasibility projects: up to $300,000 with durations up to two years; (2) Research in Service to Practice projects: from $300,000 to $2,000,000 with durations from two to five years; (3) Innovations in Development projects: $500,000 to $3,000,000 with durations from two to five years; (4) Broad Implementation projects from $1,000,000 to $3,000,000 with durations from three to five years; (5) Literature Reviews, Syntheses, or Meta-analyses projects up to $250,000 with durations of up to two years; and (6) Conferences up to $250,000 with durations of up to two years.


Limitation Details

An institution or organization may serve as lead on no more than three proposals submitted to the November deadline. However, an institution or organization may partner as a subaward on other proposals submitted. An individual may be included as a Principal Investigator (PI) /Co-PI on no more than three proposals submitted to the November deadline.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal for this program (for which UGA is the lead institution), you must first submit an internal application to limsub@uga.edu according to the required instructions below.

Internal Applications must include the following:

  • A cover page listing
    • The name of this funding opportunity and title of your proposal
    • Your name, UGA position, home department, email, and UGA contact information
    • Collaborator names, positions, and institutions (if any)
  • A (maximum two-page) proposal summary
  • One paragraph describing why this proposal should be UGA’s submission (i.e., why it will be the most competitive for this program)
  • PI’s curriculum vitae

Internal Submission Instructions

The above internal application materials should be submitted via email as a single .PDF file to limsub@uga.edu by the internal deadline listed above.

Questions?

Please submit questions regarding the internal competition to Lauren Sisko at limsub@uga.edu.

For questions directly related to this program, please contact the following:

Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings
Directorate for Education & Human Resources
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230

Phone: +1 (703) 292-8616
DRLAISL@nsf.gov


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