Catalyzing Inclusive STEM Experiences All Year Round (CISTEME365)
This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by preparing middle school students for advanced science and math courses, and for engineering careers. The project seeks to promote inclusion, diversity, equity, and access for learning experiences and careers in STEM. It provides middle and high school students opportunities and resources to immerse themselves in STEM activities throughout the year. The project has identified guidance counselors as an untapped resource. Counselors play a pivotal role as gatekeepers to informal learning opportunities and to educational paths into STEM careers. The project also enables multiple school stakeholders to effectively prepare students for a STEM major/career. This effort will benefit society by widening the path to high-demand, high-wage, high-skill STEM jobs and thereby improve the diversity of our nation's technical workforce. The project is a 3-pillar intervention strategy with 24 partner schools participating in a comprehensive 10-day (80 hour) summer institute to equip teams (each consisting of a counselor, a teacher, and a third school stakeholder) with the knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and resources to act as effective STEM advocates. The project will facilitate a school-year networked improvement community (NIC) that connects teams within and across schools as research is being conducted to better understand and address underlying inclusion, diversity, equity, and access issues in STEM. The NIC process will allow the PIs to work with the teams to implement out-of-school-time STEM clubs to provide unique engineering design, project-based, and other hands-on experiences to 1,000 students throughout the school year.
The Strategies project will address the following questions. What learning experiences involving emerging technologies effectively enable diverse populations of students gain familiarity and relevant competencies with these technologies, and what factors influence the outcomes of the learning experiences? What factors and key experiences effectively promote awareness of STEM careers, motivation to pursue a STEM career, and persistence in undertaking education pathways to those careers, particularly among students from underrepresented populations? What strategies to engage principals, guidance counselors, and other school system administrative leaders effectively promote student and teacher adoption and effective use of practices and technologies that support STEM learning and career awareness, and what factors influence the outcomes of those strategies? The fundamental project goal is to enable female, underrepresented minority, and/or low-income middle and high school students to participate in sustained, intensive, hands-on STEM learning experiences that build technical knowledge and ability and that offer insights into different STEM careers. The project will enable students access to participate, make the impact of such experiences endure, integrate them with other school efforts, and purposely engage underrepresented students. The project team has significant infrastructure for the summer camps and an extensive network of partner schools, districts, and career and technical education consortia to assist in implementing and institutionalizing the strategies. Using a mixed-methods approach, the project team will examine program effectiveness on the development of technical skills and self-efficacy in students and on the practices of counselors and other team members. Each out-of-school-time STEM club will be outfitted with equipment, software, and using published curriculum materials to do challenging yet age-appropriate projects that teach basic concepts in design of experiment, analog and digital circuits, signals, electromagnetics, communications, controls, power and energy, microscopy, nanotechnology, photonics, algorithms, and programming. Scholarships will be provided to 228 students to attend existing STEM summer camps at the University of Illinois, where the students can explore different STEM majors and develop technical skills under the guidance of university faculty in high-tech instructional labs. The project team will investigate the synergistic effects of school year STEM clubs, university-hosted summer camps, and a NIC that includes counselors and teachers. The research is potentially transformative because it creates a new paradigm for advancing students' interest, self-efficacy, abilities, and pathways in STEM.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.