The ISL Framework was developed through two years of studying the tasks, activities, and skills of practicing professionals across a range of science centers and other STEM-rich museums. The creation of the framework was informed by research conducted with professionals across the field and by reviews of the literature about professional learning and the use of competency frameworks in other fields.
The research team included Margaret Glass, Michelle Kenner, and Lesley Markham at Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), Martin Storksdieck, Nancy Staus, and Nancee Hunter at Oregon State University’s STEM Research Center, Dennis Schatz at Pacific Science Center, Kris Morrissey at University of Washington Museology Graduate Program, Joe Heimlich at the Lifelong Learning Group of COSI Columbus, Andy Aichele of COSI, Columbus, and Cathlyn Stylinski at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
Why A Framework?
ISL work is important. Public knowledge and engagement in STEM is critical for a vibrant, democratic, healthy society and ISL organizations play a vital role in stimulating public interest and engagement in STEM. Each year, hundreds of millions of people visit ISL institutions. The success of those experiences is dependent on the competencies of those who work within the ISL field. ISL work is difficult. Learning how to reach, engage, inspire, and inform public audiences is a significant and lifelong challenge. Our society, our knowledge-base, and the interactions between society and STEM knowledge are complicated, sophisticated, and ever-changing.
ISL work is unique. People come to ISL work from many fields and the career path is different for each person. This diversity brings a wealth of knowledge, expertise, commitment, and passion to the field, but it also leaves individuals or organizations with gaps.
If you are exploring the ISL Professional Competency Framework, you probably know that ISL work requires a unique set of skills. Perhaps your experiences or your education has led you to a point where you want a better sense of what you know and what you don’t know. Perhaps you’re wondering how to take the next step in your career, or maybe you are in a leadership position and you want to know how to help your staff take the next step. And maybe you work in an ISL institution, but you don’t know if you consider yourself an ISL professional. The Framework is designed for you.
How Was it Created?
Three facilitated workshops were held at science centers in different parts of the United States with participants from small, medium, and large science centers and museums and representing different levels of their careers. Results were verified through a national survey and targeted interviews with ISL professionals. This Evidence-based Informal STEM Learning (ISL) Professional Competency Framework is grounded in research, evaluation, and knowledge of effective practices and emerging practices. The Framework describes the suite of competencies that are associated with successful practice within the ISL field. Three facilitated workshops were held at science centers in different parts of the United States with participants from small, medium, and large science centers and museums. The participants represented different types of job responsibilities within their institutions and were at different levels of their careers. Results were verified through a national survey and targeted interviews with ISL professionals. The Framework was presented at a number of national conferences including Association of Science and Technology Centers and the American Alliance of Museums. Feedback further refined the framework and set priorities for continued resource development. While each job and each institution is unique, the competencies in this framework cut across most functions. They are the competencies that define professionalism in the ISL field. The Framework provides a map for you to pinpoint where you are and where you might want to go. Further research is planned to support the development of resources that will help individuals as well as institutions plan and prioritize professional learning opportunities.
~ Preeti Gupta, American Museum of Natural History
“Certainly every institution has it’s own idiosyncrasies but communicating patterns of career progression and thinking about competencies could be very helpful to museums big and small, to early career informal STEM workers and to HR and recruitment efforts.”
~ Claire Pillsbury, Exploratorium
“This seems like important work that can help shape the ISE field. So many people “accidentally” fall into work in this field, but then also fall in love and decide to stick around (at least that’s how I did it!). I can see how having a framework like this would be really helpful for encouraging and guiding professional growth.”
~ Anna Hurst, Astronomical Society of the Pacific
“I really appreciate the way you are approaching career pathways in informal science learning, not just looking at one specific kind of role or skill. This effort is so timely, I have encountered so many young professionals in this field ask about how they can progress in the field.”
~ William Spitzer, New England Aquarium