By Beth Murphy, editor of Connected Science Learning Journal, a joint initiative of ASTC and the National Science Teaching Association
For most of my career in science and STEM education, I’ve worked at the interface between museums or other educational institutions and schools, finding synergies in their efforts to improve science learning experiences for kids and their teachers. When organizations work together, they can build on each other’s strengths, share resources, overcome obstacles, and fill gaps. Truly, the whole is better than the sum of its parts.
What collaboration looks like can be simple—two individuals from two different organizations (for example, a museum and a school) working together to design, deliver, or improve a program. It can also be complicated, such as when multiple organizations come together to address a community-wide problem or work toward a systemic goal.
I’ve found the principles of Collective Impact (Kania & Kramer, 2011)—a research-based framework designed to address complex and specific social problems—to be useful in executing a wide range of collaborative work, though not all of the principles are applicable nor relevant to simpler or smaller scale efforts. However, I’ve found some of the principles to be useful guideposts for every collaboration I’ve been part of.
Let’s consider two examples of collaboration through the lens of Collective Impact: Bakken Teacher Academy: Science Learning from the Works of Scientists, a teacher program co-designed and co-facilitated by a museum educator and middle school teacher (Murphy et al., 2017), and STEM Pathways, a more complex collaboration between five nonprofit organizations and a school district (Walvig et al., 2016).