A Report on the NSF ITEST Convening: Defining an Afterschool Research Agenda
In community centers, labs, and classrooms, young people from around the country are diving into STEM learning experiences. They’re devoting some of their valuable out-of school hours to experiment and make discoveries, at the same time building skills in science, math, engineering, and technology.
Why? What do they get out of it? What motivates them to participate, and what would inspire them to further pursue STEM learning and careers?
What program elements most effectively support STEM workforce development?
What partnerships work best? How should staff be prepared? And how can programs be truly responsive to the needs of underrepresented youth?
These questions, among others, were the impetus for a unique convening funded by the National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. ITEST supports many out-of-school time STEM projects designed to increase and diversify the STEM workforce, and is interested in expanding research designed to identify and validate promising practices.
Convening participants worked to craft a field-informed research agenda to identify gaps and clarify central questions regarding STEM workforce development in the afterschool environment. The June 2010 event included researchers in STEM and informal learning, afterschool leaders and practitioners, and policymakers, funders, and industry professionals. All expressed a commitment to crafting and advancing a collaborative research agenda, through this gathering and beyond. In addition to the discussions that took place both formally and informally at the event, nine authors contributed targeted white papers to help frame some of the key themes.