My first comment is wow, what an interesting array of projects -- at different levels of maturity -- and what a wealth of knowledge within the MSP community.
The Poster Showcase is a wonderful experiment. I reap a great reward every time I dive into a poster. I find, however, that I really need to push myself to dive in. When I attend a face-to-face conference, it’s easier for me to focus on the conference. Attending a virtual conference (without physically leaving home and my other work behind) has the downside of distractions. On the flip side, I actually think I get more out of the virtual poster hall than I do from a face-to-face poster hall -- and more efficiently. I also appreciate the cost savings, reduced environmental impact, and limited disruption of my work and family life in not having to travel. Bottom line, though, is that I need to be disciplined about my participation.
I like the format -- the audio intro, the downloaded poster in separate window, and the discussion board. Most of the discussions thus far, however, don't seem to have transitioned beyond perfunctory and clarifying questions. There’s little challenging of one another. There’s nothing wrong with the discussions, but could they get to a deeper level? If so, how?
"Mix" or "Suite" of Project Components
There exists a core set of 15 to 20 common project components -- summer institutes, lesson study, professional learning communities, classroom coaching/teacher leaders, seminars, administrator training, parent training, use of particular instructional materials, development of instructional materials, teacher collaboration time, STEM faculty involvement with K-12 teachers, and a few more. The vast majority of projects describe a particular mix or suite of project components selected from this set, and they emphasize the value of the collection -- implying or stating explicitly that one component without the others would be ineffective (or at least less effective). But of course no single project includes all of the components. Different contexts and different project goals lead to different mixes. We're learning from the MSPs how to implement particular project components well, and we're learning how a collection of components works in a particular context. I don't think we'll learn from the MSPs that good instructional materials are more impactful than lesson study or vice versa -- but we are learning about cases where one or the other had an impact and what other supports were in place concurrently.
There are interesting cases where the number of project components and/or their magnitudes are reduced on purpose, to see if limited (and presumably more economical) interventions can still have an impact. In other words, yes, the deluxe suite might well be wonderful, but what if one can't afford the deluxe suite?
Ultimately, one needs to be thoughtful about which elements are most critical in a certain context and which are feasible. Looking across the projects in the Poster Showcase provides great food for thought in developing new programs and refining existing ones.
Importance of Project Descriptions
Building on a sentiment expressed by the MSP-Knowledge Management and Dissemination Project (Principal Investigators: Joan Pasley and Barbara Miller), the MSPs are contributing much to the field of STEM education, but it’s imperative that those who are documenting the projects provide clear descriptions of interventions, contexts, and methods. Individual projects can generate powerful findings on their own, but looking across the projects, as we're able to do in the Poster Showcase, can be more powerful still. But only if project characteristics are well documented.
Kudos and Thanks
Kudos and thanks to the conference organizers, poster authors, and conference participants -- and ultimately to all of the project participants -- on such a great body of work.