A Comprehensive Model for Motivating and Preparing Under-represented Students, Educators and Parents in Science, Engineering, and Technology
A comprehensive informal learning STEM outreach program for kindergarten through grade 4 (K-4) students is described along with the program’s theory of change and findings based on the participation of more than 200 urban minority students and their parents over a four-year period. This NSF-funded informal learning program was grounded in parental engagement theory of planned behavior and integrated both active-learning pedagogies and in-situ professional development for teachers. A unique age-appropriate science, engineering and technology integrated curriculum was delivered as a series of Saturday workshops set in a community science museum. Each year, cohorts of K‐3 African American and Hispanic students and their parents participated in eight 3-hour workshops comprised of student/parent sessions of hands-on science and engineering activities as well as separate parent awareness and development sessions in STEM education and technology skill development. The aim of this program has been to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields by attending to students early in the educational process. To accomplish this, the program has been guided by the following goals: to increase the knowledge, skills, and interest of K–3 students from underrepresented population groups in STEM fields; to increase parents’ knowledge and skills in science and engineering and their capacity to support their children in pursuing education and careers in these fields; and to increase the effectiveness of teachers in engaging students and parents in the Saturday science-related learning activities. Mixed methods research methodology has been used to measure the program’s contribution to the advancement of the program goals. Learning, motivational, and efficacy outcomes have been measured with pre and post student, teacher and parent survey instruments. This program has incorporated major findings of more than 10-years of research that suggests that improving children’s academic outcomes are much more effective when the family is actively engaged. This program has offered opportunities for parents to work along side their children; provided strategies promoting positive parental/child engagement; and provided ongoing training and professional development for project teachers. Young minority children have been exposed to African American, Latino, and women scientists and engineers through personal contact at special events, and via a featured program website section. Preliminary evaluation findings based on pre and post surveys, interviews, and observational data will be presented that indicate this program is helping parents and students persist in the program for multiple years and is motivating positive changes in student content understanding and career motivation.
Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching