Network: South Carolina’s Coalition for Mathematics & Science

Purpose: The Theory of Action for STEM Success is intended to guide thought and action for those who seek to work systemically to improve student learning in STEM. It is an adaptation of the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Theory of Action. We take our adaptation a few steps further in that we include sufficient context and content such that individuals and schools are able to plan strategically without need of our assistance.

Usage: The Theory of Action for STEM Success is used to guide plans and action in STEM education. Over the past 20 years we have used this tool in partnership with schools and school districts to plan for implementation of inquiry based science and mathematics programs and to guide the work of instructional coaches in STEM subject areas. More recently, our Education Specialists have used the Theory of Action for STEM Success in conjunction with our STEM Innovation Configuration Maps to guide planning and action for schools seeking STEM certification from AdvancED.

Impacts: Theory of Action for STEM Success is most effective as a more global provocateur of thought when coupled with our more specific STEM Innovation Configuration Maps. These maps allow users to dig more deeply into four key components of the Theory of Action. As the tool is readily available on our website and largely used without our assistance, we are able to track downloads, but not specific impacts.

Prior research or grounding: The original content and context of this tool links back to a document entitled Promising Practices in Elementary School Science, published in 1993 by PDK and NSTA. The findings in this document led to creation of the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Theory of Action. See We have built upon the Smithsonian’s Theory of Action through an iterative, action research process and through careful study of the literature of STEM education reform.

Contact: Dr. Tom Peters, 864-656-7050,