Experiences of Students, Teachers, and Parents Participating in an Inclusive, School-Based Informal Engineering Education Program
Many youth on the autism spectrum possess interests and strengths for STEM-related postsecondary pathways, yet there are few research-based programs to support those interests and competencies including complex problem solving and social communication. This qualitative study explored the experiences and perceived outcomes of students, teachers, and parents participating in an inclusive, strength-based, extracurricular engineering design program entitled the IDEAS Maker Club. Twenty-six students, 13 parents, and nine teachers in the program completed interviews and program logs while researchers conducted classroom observations over 2 years. Thematic analysis identified five common themes: (1) positive student experience and engagement, (2) skills acquisition, (3) development of interest in STEM and related careers, (4) social relationships and community, and (5) safe spaces that supported self-determination.
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