Spotlights on STEM Education Research

CADRE's Spotlights explore important themes in K-12 STEM education research and development by highlighting DRK-12 project contributions, community perspectives, and important resources.

While many of the Spotlights cover cross-cutting topics, such as professional development or culturally relevant instruction, other Spotlights are focused on disciplines or subdisciplines (e.g. computer science, astronomy), STEM practices (e.g. modeling, problem solving), or project design & implementation (e.g. replication, CAREER awards).

Adapting Research Amid COVID-19 (2020)

In this Spotlight, four projects share the changes they made to their questions and/or collection, measurement, and analysis of data in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Administrators and Teacher Leaders in STEM Education (2023)

Learn about how DRK-12 projects are engaging administrators and teacher leaders to create a culture of STEM learning, ensure all students have access to high-quality instruction, and inspire students to pursue STEM-related fields.

Algebra Education in DRK-12 (2019)

Learn about DRK-12 projects that are promoting access to and success in algebra through pre-service training and professional learning opportunities for teachers, instructional materials, assessments, learning technologies, interventions for at-risk students, and other innovations.

Analyzing & Interpreting Data Across STEM Disciplines (2020)

The demand for data skills is growing across industries and disciplines. Understanding how to analyze and interpret data will not only be critical for students as they enter the workforce, but also as they grapple with complex issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change. This Spotlight features 16 DRK-12 projects that are building students' data skills through research and innovative curriculum and tools.

Argumentation in STEM (2023)

This Spotlight highlights DRK-12 research and products that support the STEM practice of argumentation in math and science classrooms.

Artificial Intelligence in STEM Teaching & Learning (2022)

This Spotlight highlights a few of the many ways artificial intelligence can be applied to STEM classrooms and education research, from AI-based assessment to intelligent virtual companions.

Astronomy & Space Sciences (2021)

Explore the opportunities, challenges, research and products at the frontiers of astronomy and space sciences in STEM education.

Broadening Participation in STEM (2018)

This Spotlight highlights opportunities, resources, and projects that aim to increase involvement in STEM.

Citizen Science in K-12 STEM Education (2019)

Citizen Science and crowdsourcing projects enable the public—young and old, students and teachers, amateur and expert—to participate in scientific data collection and research. In this Spotlight, you'll read about five projects funded by NSF's DRK-12 program to support STEM learning and discovery through Citizen Science projects.

Climate Science Education (2023)

This month’s spotlight showcases DRK-12 projects that are supporting students and teachers in learning and teaching about climate science’s impacts and phenomena.

Coaching and Mentoring STEM Educators (2024)

This Spotlight features research on coaching and mentoring STEM educators.

Collaborative Teacher Learning (2024)

Explore how DRK-12 projects are leveraging collaborative teacher learning approaches to improve science, engineering, and mathematics instruction.

Computer Science and Computational Thinking (2020)

This Spotlight explores work with K-12 students and teachers to promote computer science and computational thinking across academic disciplines.

Conferences and Workshops Organized by DRK-12 Projects (2024)

This Spotlight highlights the work of DRK-12 projects focused on organizing conferences or workshops to advance their work and the STEM education field.

Culturally Responsive STEM Education (2022)

In this Spotlight, learn about culturally responsive PreK-12 STEM education and DRK-12 projects researching culturally responsive instruction, curricula, and assessment.

Curricula & Resources for Educators (2021)

A collection of STEM+C lessons, apps, professional learning materials, and other educator resources created by DRK-12 projects.

Curriculum: Practitioner Selection, Adaptation, and Design (2019)

This spotlight explores the role of educators in creating quality and coherent curricula in today's science and mathematics classrooms. Two blog posts examine the importance of curriculum coherence (one in the context of science, the other in mathematics), and four projects describe their efforts to support and empower practitioners in this area.

DRK-12 CAREER Awards (2022)

Hear from 27 DRK-12 CAREER Awardees about their work, plus advice on developing a proposal and managing an NSF grant.

DRK-12 Collaborative Projects (2023)

This Spotlight features DRK-12 collaborative projects, provides insight into the affordances and challenges of partnering with multiple organizations, and offers advice for those considering a collaborative proposal.

DRK-12 Impact Studies (2023)

This Spotlight features DRK-12 impact studies that are researching the efficacy or effectiveness of previous work.

Early Childhood Education (2020)

In this Spotlight, explore NSF-funded projects and resources that focus on early learning opportunities.

Earth and Environmental Science (2021)

This Spotlight features DRK-12 innovations and research designed to help students understand complex Earth and Environmental Science topics such as natural phenomena, ecosystems, and human impact on our environment.

Engineering Education (2019)

This Spotlight provides examples of preK-12 NSF-funded programs that show promise for educating future generations of scientifically literate and engineering-talented adults.

English Language Learners (2020)

This Spotlight features DRK-12-funded projects that are researching and developing approaches to improving STEM learning for students classified as English language learners (ELLs) or English learners (ELs). 

Exploratory Research (2022)

This Spotlight features descriptions of DRK-12 funded Exploratory projects and projects that have built on a previously funded Exploratory project, and a blog with more information about this project type, including how it is different from Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER).

Family Engagement to Support STEM Learning (2024)

This Spotlight highlights the ways in which DRK-12 projects are engaging families and caregivers to support STEM learning, including building parent leadership capacity and co-creating and testing home-based activities, and why this engagement has been important to their work.

Games & Simulations (2015)

In this spotlight, explore DRK-12 games and simulations designed to support science and math learning.

Inclusive Mathematics Education (2023)

Learn about DRK-12 projects that are promoting equitable and inclusive mathematics education through research on teacher education, instructional practices, learning experiences, and assessments that support success and achievement in mathematics for all students.

Informal & Formal STEM Education (2021)

This Spotlight examines connections between formal STEM education and learning supported by museums, science centers, families, communities, and other informal settings that are part of the STEM education ecosystem.

Learning Progressions and Trajectories (2024)

Read how DRK-12 projects are addressing issues of equity and supporting teachers in understanding and using learning progressions and trajectories.

Modeling in Science & Mathematics Education (2020)

This Spotlight highlights resources and research to support modeling in science and mathematics classrooms.

Motivation & Engagement in STEM Education (2022)

This Spotlight highlights three projects that are currently researching approaches and learning environments that are designed to motivate and engage students in science, computer science, and software engineering, along with information on the larger body of research, innovations, and instrumentation in the DRK-12 portfolio and other related resources.

Online and Blended Professional Development (2017)

This Spotlight offers grantee perspectives on the current state of STEM professional development (PD) and highlights DRK-12 contributions in the area of online and blended PD.

Online Learning (2020)

This Spotlight shares online learning resources including activities, tools, and tips to support remote student learning and teacher development.

Problem Solving in STEM Education (2020)

This Spotlight showcases DRK-12 projects that are researching and developing innovations that support and leverage problem solving in computer science, engineering, mathematics, and science.

Replication & Building Evidence (2020)

This Spotlight features perspectives, research, and resources related to building evidence in STEM education, particularly by means of replication.

Research-Practice Partnerships (2023)

Read about partnerships between researchers and practitioners to innovate and improve STEM teaching and learning, including how they were formed, the strategies and features they leverage to support equitable work together, and how they've addressed common challenges. 

Rural STEM Education (2023)

Explore how DRK-12 projects are increasing access to resources and opportunities in rural communities that can improve student achievement and representation in STEM.

Simulations in STEM Teaching & Learning (2022)

This Spotlight features seven projects researching and developing simulations for teacher and student STEM education.

Social Studies and STEM Integration (2024)

This Spotlight features projects that are integrating social studies with STEM learning and practices.

Social-Emotional Learning (2022)

Read how four DRK-12 projects are incorporating social-emotional learning (SEL) skills into their STEM education research and development and find related resources about SEL.

STEM Pathways (2019)

Examine STEM pathway and workforce development in PreK-12, including projects that are researching and innovating approaches that allow and encourage all students to pursue continued study or careers in STEM.

Story in STEM Education (2014)

In this Spotlight, listen to PIs Roy Gould and Jackie Miller discuss their work and explore the question, "Why is story such a powerful tool in the classroom?"

Supporting Students with Disabilities (2021)

This Spotlight features DRK-12 projects that are addressing approaches and developing tools to support STEM teaching and learning for students with disabilities.

Sustaining and Scaling Professional Development (2021)

Explore innovations, research, and advice around creating sustainable professional development programs or scaling interventions to broaden their impacts on STEM teaching and learning.

Systemic Reform (2023)

In this Spotlight, explore the types of partnerships, methodologies, theoretical frameworks, challenges and strategies that support work enacting reforms on a systemic level. This Spotlight includes a perspective piece by Suzanne Donovan and Alan Schoenfeld, highlights the work of seven projects, and offers additional resources for those interested in learning more.

Teacher Content Knowledge (2020)

Learn about projects developing and studying models and resources to improve and assess teachers' knowledge for teaching science, mathematics, and computer science.

Teacher Preparation Models and Programs (2018)

This Spotlight features a range of DRK-12 projects that are designing, implementing, and/or studying preservice teacher programs in STEM disciplines.

Teaching & Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic (2023)

Learn about DRK-12-funded efforts to understand the impacts of the pandemic on STEM teaching and learning as well as the early results from a synthesis of NSF-funded research on STEM education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teaching and Learning About Infectious Diseases (2020)

This spotlight features products and findings from DRK-12 projects funded to educate the public about Ebola virus and other infectious diseases as well as support students, teachers, and administrators as consumers of information.

Technology-Enhanced Assessment (2019)

Explore projects using technology to transform the assessment of student and teacher learning as well as advance the field of educational measurement.

Video-Enhanced Teacher Education (2022)

Learn about DRK-12 work to enhance teacher education using video.

Visual Representations in Mathematics (2018)

In this Spotlight, five DRK-12 projects discuss the role of visual representations (VRs) in their work, how VRs are being implemented and tested, as well as emerging findings.

Women and Girls in STEM (2022)

This spotlight features DRK-12 projects working on solutions to engage and support women in STEM fields.