Influence of Industry-Informed STEM Pathways on Student Experiences and Outcomes in Non-Selective Urban School
In a low-income, non-selective public school in Boston, 300 high school students (largely African American and English learners) participate in STEM career pathways that include aligned sequences of coursework, work-based learning, and career training.
This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase student motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). This Industry-Informed STEM Pathways for Students is a project concerned with underrepresentation of people of color and women in STEM fields. It uses a student-centered approach to investigate the ITEST guiding questions related to: motivation and preparedness to pursue STEM careers, instructional and curricular innovations, and partnerships with business and industry. The Boston Plan for Excellence, in collaboration with the Education Development Center and Boston-based STEM industry partners will design, develop, study, and iterate on three industry-informed STEM pathways for 300 students in grades 9-12: electrical engineering, digital design, and computer programming. The significance and importance of the project is large-scale studies of within-school career academies and inclusive STEM high schools that suggest that school-based career pathways may be a promising strategy for boosting STEM career interest and other educational and life outcomes among underrepresented groups. Few interventions to date have attempted to build such pathways within a non-selective school to serve a student population that: (a) includes mostly low-income students of color, many of whom are English learners, (b) has not expressed interest in STEM, and (c) might have gaps in prior STEM knowledge. Therefore, there is little knowledge about how career pathways might be implemented with a wider range of populations, or how components (e.g. coursework, internships) relate to students' interest in and capacity to pursue STEM careers. Moreover, few studies have tracked students over time to understand how their STEM interests and capacity have been shaped by various pathway elements. Informed by research on STEM-focused high schools, career pathways, and social cognitive career theory, this project has the potential to advance knowledge of how schools can develop and sustain STEM interest and capacity among students from underrepresented groups who may have gaps in STEM and/or language preparation.
Each pathway in electrical engineering, digital design, and computer programming will include an aligned sequence of technology-rich, project-based courses, internships, career talks, company tours, and job readiness workshops. Using design research methodology, the partners will examine the relationships between: (a) career pathway design, (b) students' experiences, and (c) students' STEM interest and capacity within a non-selective, open-enrollment urban public STEM school in Boston. By focusing on the organization of student experiences using a pathway approach, the partners will begin to answer the question: What are the essential components of a successful industry-informed STEM career pathway in a non-selective, urban public STEM school, wherein success results in students graduating with the interest and capacity to fill workforce needs in Boston's STEM-driven economy? The neighborhood-based Dearborn STEM Academy draws a large Cape Verdean and immigrant population from Dorchester and Roxbury., 66% of students are English learners and 75% are from low-income families. Local STEM companies will help design the project, create industry-based experiences for students, and broaden participation in STEM workplaces by youth who are female, Black, Latino, and/or from low-income families. Data collection will include surveying all students each year, as well as multi-year longitudinal data collection (focus groups, observations, classroom assessments) for two student cohorts. Analyses will examine associations between program design and students' STEM interest and capacity. An exploratory quantitative study will be conducted in year three.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.