Group of elementary school kids running in a school corridor

CI-STEM is a 5-year study, funded by the National Science Foundation (#1906490), with the goal to learn about the relationships between organizational culture, continuous quality improvement (CQI), and STEAM afterschool program offerings within California’s expanded learning system. Our goal is to study the system and how the system’s structure shapes local practice and decision-making related to CQI and STEAM. We are not evaluating people, programs, or sites. The research is divided across three activities:

  • System Study Interviews – We are in the process of mapping the expanded learning system in which CQI is implemented, and how implementation of the Compassionate Systems Framework changes practices and mindsets to better support CQI. This work involves interviews with leaders and professionals in the Expanded Learning Division (EXLD); leaders in the Center for Systems Awareness (CSA); the System of Support for Expanded Learning (SSEL); intermediary organizations supporting these efforts, such as the California Afterschool Network (CAN), ASAPConnnect, California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC), Partnership for Children and Youth (PCY), and Temescal Associates; grantees, site coordinators, frontline staff; and others.
  • Surveys – We plan to survey frontline staff, site coordinators, and grant managers or program directors throughout California to describe organizational culture, CQI processes, and informal STEAM program offerings. We will look at how patterns might change over a period of three years, launching the surveys in the 2021-22 school year.
  • Case Studies – We plan to conduct in-depth case studies of CQI practices and STEAM offerings in afterschool programs statewide to understand how they enact CQI and STEAM locally. We will observe activities and meetings, interview staff and youth, review documents and artifacts and connect these to insights about the system and patterns from the above interviews and surveys.

Why do this study?

California’s publicly funded afterschool programs stand out in many ways in terms of size, scope, level of dedicated state funding, and the sheer diversity of people and places. The state’s effort to make CQI a way of life at this large scale is unparalleled. Additionally, the efforts to bring about sustainable change in mindset and organizational culture through systems thinking and applying the compassionate systems framework is a unique experiment in education reform.

We will document how these efforts unfold over the next few years and provide insights about systems change, organizational culture change, and the role of systems thinking in CQI in California’s afterschool system. Our goal is to share these insights, along with examples of best practices and important challenges, with EXLD and the field on a regular basis.

We also aim to understand which specific CQI resources, tools, and practices work well in supporting ongoing improvement in afterschool STEAM programming, and to understand which work best in different conditions, contexts, and communities.

Whom can I contact to learn more about the study?

You can reach out to Patrik Lundh (patrik.lundh@sri.com) for additional information and details about the overall study or to learn more about participating in our research. For questions specific to the different areas of research, you can contact Carrie Allen (carrie.allen@unt.edu) regarding the System Study Interviews, Andrea Beesley (andrea.beesley@sri.com) regarding the Surveys, and Patrik Lundh regarding the Case Studies.