Network Science for All: Positioning Underserved Youth for Success in Pursuing STEM Pathways
Boston University, in partnership with Sociedad Latina, will investigate the role that a middle school network science curriculum plays as both an input and outcome of science learning. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. The project team will focus on development of skills to investigate real-world problems that have meaningful consequences for humankind across social, technical, and scientific domains. This project will make use of publicly available data to allow students to be involved in project-based activities in and out of their classrooms that can have societal impact. The project team will leverage previously developed data-driven curriculum in the context of a network science lens, synthesize highly promising technical and STEM resources as well as in-school and out-of-school programs, and embed new education research advances on effective career development to evolve a construct that will best position underserved youth for future learning of science. The curriculum and career development resources will directly reach 600 principally Latinx students, 12 teachers, parents, and other key stakeholders. Project activities will be implemented in a range of in-school and after-school programs in Boston. Through a collective impact approach, the project will be replicable, scale to more schools throughout Massachusetts, inform related projects, and evolve to regional and national impact.
The project will create novel learning opportunities for middle school students to explore real-world project-based problems addressed through data analysis, data visualization and network modeling. This study will advance the field of interdisciplinary teaching and learning as well as strategies for supporting students and teachers through three interdependent strands: (1) Network Science for All workforce readiness curriculum modules, (2) applied evaluation metrics based on comparing students to peer groups through statewide data, and (3) sustainability and scalability embedded in the structure of the program. The project will be informed by several advisory boards aimed at leveraging the program in order to sustain and scale the effort. At Boston University, an internal advisory board will embed the project into the broad ecosystem of the university as part of a collective impact culture. A STEM advisory board will inform the science program. A formal independent external advisory board will guide the project?s efforts. Research will be conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, design-based research will be used to iteratively refine curriculum and programmatic interventions. In Phase 2, the research will examine the degree to which the program positions youth for success by examining the (1) varied acquisition of next generation STEM competencies for future workforce needs, (2) motivation and engagement of students and their support systems, and (3) impact on shifting STEM-related career goals and pathways to achieving these goals. All materials will be available in electronic forms on a Boston University project website, will be licensed under open-source code and open content licenses, and will be freely distributed to teachers, curriculum developers, and researchers. Research findings will be widely disseminated through publications and conference proceedings.