Research

The Lawrence Hall of Science, as the public science center of the University of California, Berkeley, is a learning lab — a place where world-class researchers engage with key questions and major challenges that face the field of science, technology, engineering, and math education. We conduct research in aid of developing new products and programs (our own and others), to tighten the research-practice cycle, and to ensure broadening participation through learning how to break down systemic barriers and inequities in STEM education.

A young child is looking through a tube at a science exhibit

Expertise

Our team includes researchers with extensive experience conducting and presenting research in formal and informal STEM education, with methodological expertise leading large and small scale evaluations, design-based research, assessment and measurement development, participatory and community based-research, and supporting broader impacts for core research conducted across STEM fields. Further, each of the Lawrence’s four strategic initiatives work to advance our research agenda for questions related to K-12 STEM education, STEM pathways, environmental education, and learning at the intersection of science, technology, and society.

Our Services

Through a range of evaluation services from full-scale, complex evaluations to panel reviews, technical reports and briefs, logic modeling, and empirical study design, we work to create powerful STEM learning opportunities that inspire and engage in ways that advance equity and opportunity. Our work spans learning environments (formal in-school, informal-out-of-school time) and content areas (Environmental Education, Professional Learning, Computational and Digital Learning, Engineering and Robotics, and more). Learn More >

Design-Based Research (DBR) and Design-Based Iterative Research (DBIR) is growing in application and use, but it is not necessarily as widely understood. We see it as a set of principles and a constellation of methods for grounding iterative design in problems of practice, with the goal of creating designs that work in situ AND advance more generalized theory/models for how to approach particular problems. You might want to engage in DBR when you want to design something for the messy particulars of the real world or when you want to understand how a design can be optimized for use in a new context and/or with new populations. Our experts can work with you to design and implement the most useful DBR and DBIR research approaches.

Community-based research involves a participatory approach, where research projects are driven by community priorities, where members of the community are involved throughout the entire research process, from the original development of the design and any proposal, to analyzing and interpreting the data, to planning for the future based on research outcomes. Community-based research aligns closely with the Lawrence’s strategic priorities of authentic and meaningful partnerships and seeking social justice through our work. We are eager to engage with communities and community-based organizations in developing, focusing, and implementing community-based research projects.

We provide a range of assessment services for various projects and organizations. Our assessment work is multifaceted and specifically designed for the learning setting in which Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics (STEM) education takes place. Our services may include any or all of the following:


  • Designing assessment systems and support materials

  • Scoring a system design with exemplar identification

  • Developing items and scaling them

  • Scanning/scoring fixed-choice responses

  • Scoring constructed responses

  • Gathering and evaluating validity evidence (testing construct validity)

  • Performing data analysis and supplying suitable psychometrics

  • Reporting out

For many funders, and particularly for the National Science Foundation (NSF), understanding the potential broader impacts – the ways in which research can benefit society and advance desired social outcomes – is key to supporting the work. To help ensure that your research has the impact you seek, we work with our partners to create inspiring and innovative educational outreach experiences. Outcomes have included new planetarium programs, STEM content books & video series for young children, and communication for science research grants. Learn More >

Our Work

Three students participate in a Make Math REAL activity.

Make Math REAL: Maker Challenges to Promote Math Learning among English Language Learners

In collaboration with Sonoma State University, Make Math REAL is an NSF-funded project to develop, test, and study Maker Learning…

Students from the YESS program are building solar suitcases.

Youth Engaged in STEM and Service (YESS)

Youth Engaged in STEM and Service (YESS) is a four-year (2020-24) National Science Foundation~ ITEST project to design, implement, and study the cultural relevance and…

Sunstones at The Lawrence

Environmental Protectors Project

This four-year National Science Foundation-funded project engages youth of color between 14 and 18 years of age, who live in…

Two high school students record environmental data collected in EBAYS program

Energy Interns Program: Pathways to STEM Careers

The Lawrence Hall of Science received a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant (award #1849958) to create the Energy Interns…

Children playing on the DNA sculpture at the Lawrence

Investigating Measurement of STEM Engagement and Advocacy in Older Adults

Researchers and learning designers from the University of California, Berkeley wanted to find out more about how older adults engage…

Two children and a staff member are working together during a science activity.

Augmenting Museum Visits: Guiding Families to Share in the Learning

The Lawrence Hall of Science is engaging in a three-year project (Institute of Museum and Library Services, Grant #MG-40-18-0005-18) that…

Research Spotlight

These videos showcase federally funded projects at the Lawrence aimed at improving STEM and computer science education. Videos share strategies to broaden participation, as well as to increase access and equity.

View all of our Research Spotlight Videos.

Publications

The computational thinking for science framework: Operationalizing CT-S for K-12 science education researchers and educators

Contemporary science is a field that is becoming increasingly computational. Today’s scientists not only leverage computational tools to conduct their investigations, they often must contribute […]

A review of augmented reality for informal science learning: Supporting design of intergenerational group learning

Designing for and facilitating intergenerational group learning is an important objective of informal science institutions as most visitors in those settings engage with scientific thinking […]

Racial equity and inclusion in United States of America-based environmental education organizations: A critical examination of priorities and practices in the work environment

In the United States of America, societal structures of oppression frame and underpin nearly every field and industry, including environmental education. Despite growing attention on […]

Learning to Teach to Argue: Case Studies in Professional Learning in Evidence-Based Science Writing

The emphasis on scientific practices articulated by the National Research Council framework and the Next Generation Science Standards requires significant pedagogical shifts for U.S. science […]

Research Briefs

A student is outdoors examining nature through a magnifying glass

Improving Outdoor Science Teaching and Learning: The Implementation of a Capacity-Building Model in Outdoor Science Programs

This paper examines the role and value of professional learning and organizational capacity building in outdoor science education by investigating several questions analyzing the Better Environmental Education, Teaching, Learning, and Expertise Sharing (BEETLES) Project

The Lawrence Hall of Science

Supporting Making-Centered Experiences in Distance-Learning Contexts

The paper looks at the challenges and opportunities within the making (hands-on, design-based STEAM learning experiences) movement as program developers and leaders pivoted to online, virtual experiences during the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Children playing on Pheena the Whale

Articulating a Transformative Approach for Designing Tasks that Measure Young Learners’ Developing Proficiencies in Integrated Science and Literacy

As early elementary classrooms shift to implementing Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) instruction, high-quality assessments are essential for providing teachers with information about where students are in the process of developing proficiency in science. In this paper, we introduce an approach […]

Get In Touch

Have questions about the work that we do? We’d love to speak to you.

Mac Cannady