Project-Based Learning Opportunities and Exploration of Mentorship for Students with Visual Impairments in STEM
This project will advance 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 fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by engaging in hands-on field experience, laboratory/project-based entrepreneurship tasks and mentorship experiences. Estimates of employments rates for adults with visual impairments range from 30% to 38% and these individuals are underrepresented in STEM fields. The goal of this project is to better understand and advance the awareness and persistence toward STEM-related careers by middle and high school students with visual impairments (VI). The project will accomplish these goals by providing VI students with opportunities for accessible project-based learning and mentorship from a VI professional working in a STEM field.
The project involves researchers from the University of Arizona and external evaluators from McREL International. The project is designed to address the following research questions: (1) To what degree does the intervention result in understanding by students with VI of relevant science and engineering practices and knowledge, attitudes, and interest in STEM and STEM-related careers? (2) How effectively are mentors prepared to mentor a student with VI and what are the outcomes of these mentoring relationships and associated activities for students and mentors? (3) To what degree and under what conditions does participation in the intervention provide engaging and relevant project-based learning experiences for students with VI? Researchers will recruit approximately 35 students and mentors with visual impairments to participate in the project. Data will be collected using a variety of surveys targeting attitudes toward STEM, interest in STEM careers, and knowledge of science and engineering practices. Data will be analyzed using paired t-tests.