E-Communities: Investigating How a Collaboration Between STEM Educators and Engineers Impact Underserved Youth's Participation in Engineering Design
E-Communities is a project that will advance efforts to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) through the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. The project is investigating whether combining the expertise of professional engineers with that of STEM educators will enable classroom mathematics and science teachers to engage students in the engineering design process in ways that affect students' awareness, interest, and ability to identity with engineering principles and careers. Ninety (90) middle school teachers and more than 9000 students from Prince George's County, Maryland will participate in the study. To prepare for the implementation of E-Communities, teachers will engage in face-to-face and virtual professional development to learn how to adapt and integrate this model into their existing instructional practices. Teachers will also collaborate with STEM educators to train engineers for their roles in E-Communities. They will also participate in social network activities with engineers and STEM educators from diverse careers and ethnic backgrounds to support student engagement in the engineering design process. The overall mission of E-Communities is to increase teachers' ability to prepare students to participate fully in STEM careers at the post-secondary level.
This project will use a mixed-method design that consists of pre/post measures, surveys, and a case study. The study is collecting data on the benefits of collaborations among participating middle school leaders, teachers, and students; STEM educators; engineers; and engineering outreach offices to assess the influence of the engineering design model on teachers and students. Products developed through this project will include web broadcasts between engineers and students, teacher-developed lessons that highlight engineering-related mathematics and science practices, and instructional materials useful in engaging middle school students in the engineering design process. Access to the products and other information will be available through online resources, publications, and dissemination at mathematics and science education conferences.