Looking for Learning in After-School Spaces

Looking for Learning in After-School Spaces


The structured after-school space has long demonstrated educational benefits (Gerber, Cavallo, & Marek, 2001; Tamir, 1990). After-school settings typically provide homework support, helping youth build self-confidence (Beck, 1999). They are safe places for socializing and forming relationships with caring adults (Payton et al., 2008). While there is sufficient evidence that youth may learn science through non-school science programs (Cantrell, Pekcan, Itani, & Velasquez-Bryant, 2006; NRC, 2009; Sadler, Coyle, & Schwartz, 2000), there is a lack of research on determining what academics youth might learn in engineering design-based afterschool settings. When the after-school curriculum encompasses engineering design, the challenge is great due to the difficulty in assessing intangibles such as design and deep conceptual knowledge. Additionally, ideal learning outcome measures differ between formal school settings and informal, after-school ones, as traditional academic measures do not capture the range of ways youth demonstrate learning in informal settings (NRC, 2009). In this study we designed an after-school experience in a studio setting, using research-validated engineering design-based curriculum (Schnittka, 2009; Schnittka, Bell, & Richards, 2010; Schnittka & Bell, 2011; Schnittka, Brandt, Jones, & Evans, 2012) and gave the youth different opportunities and methods to demonstrate what they learned through the process. In this study we examined three after-school settings for 8 weeks focusing on storyboarding, chatting on a social network site, videotaped conversations with volunteer facilitators, presentations the youth made at the end of the program, and structured interviews with researchers to look for evidence of learning in afterschool spaces.

Christine Schnittka, Michael A. Evans, Tiffany Drape, and Samantha Gwai Lan Won...presentation at the 120th American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia, June 2013.


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