Science Technology Engineering and Math: Developing Education and Career Opportunity Systems
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) by developing, testing, and disseminating tools and strategies for increasing awareness of STEM-related careers among high school students with disabilities. Participants in the project will include students having learning, emotional, developmental, or physical disabilities who are eligible for special education services under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act of 2004, and their teachers. During the three-year project, investigators will: a) Study the effects of project activities on participants' confidence, interests, and efficacy in STEM learning and occupations; b) Develop local STEM Teams that each include STEM and special education teachers, industry professionals, and transition specialists in four Oregon communities; c) Provide professional development opportunities and facilitate a process for the STEM teams to build capacity to create and implement action plans to increase STEM learning experiences for students with disabilities in their schools and communities; and d) Engage 160 students with disabilities in experiential learning and career exploration using online tools, school sponsored activities such as science fairs and robotics clubs, and community experiences such as field trips and job shadowing. The project aims to improve employment outcomes for students with disabilities, and to advance knowledge of the contexts and conditions that influence their access to high school STEM learning pathways. Special emphasis will be given to STEM fields related to regional economic initiatives and local community resources, including advanced manufacturing, agriculture, engineering, environmental sciences, health sciences, marine biology, and natural resources.
The project will test an ecological model of community, school, and individual factors thought to influence participation and interests in STEM career pathways among students with disabilities. During year one, the project will establish a Project Design Team and four STEM Teams--one for each of four different communities in Oregon--that will work with the project's research team to develop online career exploration content and tools using an existing Career Information System that is used in over 80% of Oregon school districts and across 16 other states. The project will develop and incorporate six new STEM and disability-specific tools: a) A STEM Crosswalk of Occupations component that identifies occupations that require STEM knowledge, but less than a four-year college degree; b) An Inverse Report for Career Assessment that identifies STEM-related occupations that correlate to a students' interests, skills, and values; c) Profiles of individuals with disabilities working in STEM-related fields; d) Lessons on disability awareness, disclosure, and accommodations; e) A Resources component to foster awareness of scholarships, summer internships, and other resources to help students with disabilities succeed; and f) An interactive Postsecondary Transition Map that can be used to visually map and manipulate a postsecondary transition plan. The model to be implemented and tested is grounded in the findings of previous projects focusing on the creation of career development resources and implementation of collaborative school-to-work transition programs. Following a one-year development phase, the project will conduct a design experiment with 80 students with disabilities, making revisions as needed. The project will conclude in year three with a pilot test of the revised model. The revised model is expected to promote specific outcomes at three levels: a) Increased STEM efficacy, participation, and interest in STEM careers among students; b) Increased knowledge and self-efficacy in STEM and disability content and STEM career awareness among teachers; and c) Increased capacity to provide STEM learning for students with disabilities among participating schools. A design-based implementation research approach will be used to empirically design, develop, and test the program model using a variety of standard measures as pretests and posttests, a range of usage analytics, and custom reports to measure project progress and impact.