The Education Core Research (ECR) program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently celebrated its tenth-year anniversary. The Education and Human Resources Directorate – recently renamed Directorate for STEM Education (EDU) launched the program in 2013, establishing a mechanism to support curiosity-driven and use-inspired fundamental STEM education research initiatives.
In honor of this birthday, EDU hosted a webinar ECR: Past, Present, and Future featuring former EDU Assistant Directors to look back at the creation of the program and share their perspectives on the growth and future.
Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, President of the University of Maine and vice chancellor for research and innovation for the University of Maine System shared how EHR came to develop the ECR program. She recounted speaking with education researchers and learning that they didn’t have a research home at NSF unless it could be connected to one of the established activities or resources. This was a significant limitation for field-initiated questions with the potential to illuminate new approaches to teaching and insights to learning. Dr. Ferrini-Mundy looked to other directorates as a guide and worked to weave core education research through formal and informal settings and across the life span. ECR established EHR as a research-generating directorate, it already had a reputation for effective programmatic, training, curriculum development.
Dr. Karen Marrongelle served as the EHR AD from 2018 to 2021 and is currently the Chief Operating Officer at NSF. Dr. Marrongelle spoke about the inherently interdisciplinary nature of EDU spanning cognition, psychology, methodology, and research on how to do research. During her time at EHR, she grew the program to span all NSF Directorates.
The current AD Dr. James L. Moore III joined NSF in 2015, where he served as NSF program director for the Broadening Participation in Engineering program. Moore spoke about the benefits that he has seen while in this role. ECR attracts new investigators who might not think of NSF supporting their work. He noted the wisdom of the fluidity of the program across the life span and including formal and informal. Looking forward, NSF still has more work to do to disseminate accessible research. Dr. Moore made the distinction between outreach and engagement.
The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Gregg Solomon, Program Director in EDU’s Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings.