STEM Career Connections: A Model for Preparing Economically-Disadvantaged Rural Youth for the Future Workforce
The project will develop and research a series of next generation augmented reality (AR) digital learning labs and incorporate the labs into an existing curriculum, STEM 21. AR has been proposed as an effective means of motivating previously disengaged students through authentic experiences. By focusing the intervention in high schools with a large proportion of underrepresented students1, the project addresses the lack of opportunities for underrepresented youth to be engaged in rigorous STEM learning that incorporates emerging technologies, aligned with 21st century workforce skills. AR is an emerging technology that brings digital information into the physical world, overlaying digital artifacts onto the physical environment that can then be accessed via a mobile phone, a tablet, or wearable technology. STEM21 is a project-based learning model which has been successfully replicated in high schools with diverse study bodies and has resulted in improvement in student self-reported interest in STEM and STEM-related postsecondary study; science achievement; soft skills; and sense of belonging and self-regulation. The STEM21 curriculum includes six existing project-based high school biology, chemistry, engineering, earth and energy, and manufacturing courses. The AR learning labs will be specifically designed to heighten student motivation for STEM learning, increase interest in STEM-related education and careers, and deepen collaboration skills. AR facilitates many of the components of project-based learning: it offers students multiple types and sources of information to synthesize and evaluate, grounds the learning process in authentic real-world experiences, and provides virtual and face-to-face communication for collaborative problem solving. The AR learning labs will be hosted on the project?s web-based learning platform and will be able to be accessed by students and teachers on any mobile device with an Internet connection. The project will support teacher professional development thru includes a summer Institute, onsite and virtual coaching, and professional learning communities. At project end, the project AR learning lab series and curricular resources will be published under an Open Education Resource (OER) license and disseminated statewide with the support of the CT State Department of Education (CSDE).
The project's research will investigate the contexts and conditions that support the integration of new technologies, such as AR, into core STEM content and will contribute to the limited research on effective pedagogy and pedagogical environments to achieve equitable STEM learning in high school settings. The AR learning labs will be tested, iterated, and implemented in ten diverse high school settings (30 Classes with a total of approximately 900 students) over the three-year project to assess their effectiveness. The research will contribute to the limited literature on the integration of AR with STEM instructional methods to concurrently enhance STEM-related non-cognitive skills and technical AR skills among secondary students. Researchers will assess student outcomes in STEM motivation and interest, and in collaboration skills associated with participation in the project model. In addition, researchers will examine differences in student experiences in diverse secondary school settings and among underrepresented students, thereby providing information relevant to future scaling. Additional areas of study include how student experiences and outcomes vary in relation to a range of STEM subjects and AR applications present in the learning labs, and how engagement in AR lab activities relates to STEM motivation and interest. Formative assessment results, feasibility and usability data, and yearly analyses of the outcomes and fidelity of implementation will be used to design, develop, and test the AR learning Lab series and curricular resources iteratively. Researchers will use measures that have demonstrated reliability and validity with similar student populations.