Join Us in Creating Tools for Informal STEM Learning Professionals

The Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) is collaborating with the Center for Science and Industry (COSI) Center for Research and Evaluation and the Oregon State University STEM Research Center to create professional learning and development tools for those who engage the public in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Our project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

We need you to play a role! There are many ways for you to help shape the future of our field by engaging in aspects of the project (and being compensated for your time and expertise). See below for more information.

Our team previously developed the Informal STEM Learning Professional Competency Framework (see, which is intended to be used by individuals, institutions, academic programs, and other professional organizations to guide and support the ways that professional skills are developed. Now, we seek to build on the original framework, in order to better support users in growing their professional skills and reflect field-wide changes in the workforce.

We will develop a variety of resources, strategies, and tools that will serve a wide range of situations relevant to those who work in—or aim to work in—informal learning settings such as science and technology centers and museums, natural history museums, children’s museums, zoos, aquariums, nature centers, botanical gardens, planetariums, and other types of museums and cultural organizations. These efforts, which are to be completed by the end of the project in 2025, will help support our community toward a variety of outcomes:

What We’ll Create

  • Individuals will be better equipped to plan professional learning, internships, coursework, and other experiences to identify opportunities for advancement. 
  • Institutions will be better prepared to clarify how job roles and teams function, shape job descriptions, prioritize professional development experiences for their staff, and identify when a promotion or salary adjustment may be earned.  
  • Academic programs will be better prepared to shape coursework or internship experiences. 
  • Professional organizations will be better equipped to plan conferences and other professional learning events, or conduct webinars or other training programs.

We Need You!

To ensure that our work is relevant to a wide cross-section of informal learning organizations that engage the public in STEM, we need the perspective of a diverse array of professionals—and aspiring professionals—in our field—and that includes YOU!

Starting in April 2023, we have many opportunities to be involved, including virtual and in-person listening sessions, workshops, focus groups and more. Let us know if you’d like to be considered by clicking below. Those selected to help will receive a stipend for their time.
Overall, we aim to engage more than 800 people who work in informal STEM learning to help us understand the skills necessary to work in this field today and to work with us to co-develop the resources those in the field most need.

What is a “Competency Framework” Anyway?

The term “competency framework” may seem imposing, but it’s a fancy way of compiling the skills, knowledge, and capabilities necessary to be successful in a particular area of work. Competency frameworks are one way of decentralizing professional growth by encouraging self-directed processes for supporting and credentialing lifelong professional learning. Making these processes inclusive and adaptable allows for a variety of experiences to be incorporated, including academic programs, internships, on-the-job training, and other ways of learning. No one path is mandated or privileged over another.

As our field welcomes individuals through a variety of career pathways and with diverse academic backgrounds, there is no single path into informal STEM learning. In fact, because we do not have either a standard academic program or a credentialing organization for individual professionals, we hope this project will provide some helpful structure for our field that is broadly applicable across organizations and institution types.

Additional Project Contributors

ASTC is proud to have enlisted several museum networks as project advisors, including Kelsey Brow of the National Emerging Museum Professionals Network; Mike Lesperance of The Design Minds, Inc. (also Board member of the National Association for Interpretation and Chair of American Alliance of Museum’s Professional Network Council); Rose Paquet, Incluseum; Therese Quinn of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Museum and Exhibition Studies Department; Jessie Ryker-Crawford of the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Museum Studies Program; and Sierra Van Ryck deGroot, Museum Hue.

We are also grateful to our research and evaluation advisors, which includes Marjorie Bequette, Science Museum of Minnesota; David Delaine, Ohio State University’s College of Engineering and Inclusive Community-based Learning Lab; Kathayoon Khalil, Zoo Advisors, LLC; and Mark Miller, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden and Carnegie Mellon University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grants 2215274 (current), 1514815, 1514884, 1514890, and 1515315. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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