Enhancing Underrepresented Boys' Engagement in STEM through Mentoring and Father Involvement
This project will advance the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program's efforts to better understand and promote practices that increase student motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). The STEM Engagement through Mentoring (SEM) project adds to the current research landscape in two ways. First, it relies on an intentionally designed partnership among the University of Houston's College of Education, College of Natural Science & Mathematics, and College of Engineering. Second, the program focuses on interactions among underrepresented fourth and fifth grade boys, their male STEM mentors and their fathers / male caregivers who participate in an afterschool and Saturday program that provides engaging, hands-on STEM experiences. Undergraduate student mentors are also drawn from groups who have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM. Grounded in pilot work, the project focuses on (a) improving interactions between pre-service teachers (who lead the program sessions) and undergraduate mentors (who support the students) and (b) creating hands-on STEM lessons that are aligned with Texas standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. The project has potential to inform theories of how mentoring relationships impact learners' motivation, knowledge and skills while at the same time, illuminating how the mentoring process and relationships affect mentors themselves.
The project pursues three research questions: 1) In what ways do the fathers/mentors motivate students to become aware of, interested in, and prepared for STEM careers? 2) To what extent does involvement in the SEM program shape boys' and mentors' STEM identity? And, 3) What impact does the SEM program have on pre-service teachers' self-efficacy for teaching engineering content? To answer these questions, the project will use a mixed methods approach including interviews, focus groups, observations, and surveys. Results of an external program evaluation will be used for program improvement and expansion, and to evaluate the early promise of the program for student outcomes in science and mathematics. The SEM team will initially work with four schools in the Houston region to directly impact 120 fourth and fifth grade students. Subsequently, the project aims to expand its impact to a national scale by formalizing and strengthening its partnership with the teachHOUSTON secondary STEM pre-service teacher training program at the University of Houston. SEM's overarching goal is to scale to 45 additional universities that are part of the national UTeach network. By leveraging the strategic partnership with a UTeach implementation site, SEM has the potential to reach thousands of underrepresented fourth and fifth grade students across the country.