Developmentally Appropriate Strategies for Targeting Early Adolescents' Motivation in STEM
This project will advance the efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by developing specific strategies for teachers, STEM career professionals, and caregivers of economically disadvantaged African American middle school adolescents. The goal of this project is to provide a technology-rich computer and electrical engineering afterschool learning environment that helps students develop a sense of belonging or interpersonal connection while supporting their development of mastery goals, a sense of autonomy and competence, and a of view STEM learning as meaningful and worthwhile. Teachers will be prepared on how to enact instructional strategies to meet the motivational needs of early adolescents. Teacher training will include participating in STEM preparatory academies and targeted professional development workshops, working collaboratively with trained afterschool specialists, and participating in monthly consultation meetings and follow-up activities. These steps will help teachers recognize the nuances of motivating students while giving teachers an added advantage in identifying and effectively responding to issues that may facilitate or hinder student motivation. The project will also include special provisions for ensuring that STEM career professionals and caregivers are equipped with information that is essential for communicating with students in ways that promote successful participation in STEM fields.
This project will employ both quantitative and qualitative approaches, with a special emphasis on written reflections, observations, surveys, implicit association tests, field notes and activity logs. These approaches will be used to examine teacher and student motivation, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Data analysis of stability and change in teacher instruction and student motivation will involve multilevel modeling with full maximum likelihood estimation, ordinary least squares regression, growth curve modeling, and the constant comparative method. Outcomes and products from this project will include (1) a conceptual model for guiding teachers in using motivation data to improve their instructional effectiveness and (2) an array of theoretically driven pedagogical techniques that will benefit teachers, STEM career professionals, and caregivers seeking to support the motivation of students of color during computer and electrical engineering activities. In addition to disseminating formal research reports, conference presentations, and journal articles, the project team will contextualize the findings of this project during a convening designed to help community stakeholders overcome barriers to implementing motivationally supportive practices during STEM activities.