Project funded by Division of Research on Learning (ITEST)
Diversifying the pipeline into engineering is a national imperative. It is central for enhancing the likelihood of innovation, including a variety of perspectives when solving problems, and promoting social justice and broad access to the STEM workforce. One way to diversify the pipeline is to expand the potential for underrepresented students by capturing their interests in STEM at a young age through extra-curricular programming focused on children of color, such as the Summer Engineering Experiences for Kids (SEEK) program. Organized by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), SEEK is a three-week summer program that engages participants in grades 3-5 in daily hands-on, team-based engineering design projects led by collegiate mentor and teachers. Since the pilot in 2007, over 20,000 students have participated in SEEK. Based on early success of this program, NSF funded our multi-partner project to scale up the experience and conduct research on how such outreach programs might grow in sustainable manners. Two objectives guide the research aspect of this project:
1. Evaluate SEEK’s success at influencing STEM-related academic and career identity, conceptual knowledge, and interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.
2. Generate evidence and a greater understanding of organizational contextual factors that operate to enhance, moderate, or constrain SEEK’s impact from site to site.
This project applies the logic of an input-environment-outcome framework to organize data collection and analysis. In addition to considering relationships between students’ background characteristics and experiences within SEEK with their post-camp outcomes, the framework emphasizes the influence of organizational contexts on shaping students’ learning experiences. We considered three major components of organizational context in comparing sites: 1) Local structures, policies, and practices – e.g., the influence of the host school, supporting local industry partnerships, access to resources; 2) SEEK programs, structures and policies – e.g., NSBE-provided curricula, site development procedures, participant selection policies, and 3) Mentor/Teachers’ Culture – e.g., beliefs about engineering education, training programs.
Our poster will present a summary of the large-scale data collection that occurred during summer 2017 at all 16 sites. We administered a variety of instruments that have been vetted by the peer-reviewed literature to identify changes in students' STEM-related outcomes over the course of the SEEK experience. We also collected background information with regard to socio-demographic characteristics, academic preparation, and personal and social experiences, which serve as control variables and provide contextual information to illustrate differences between sites. To further operationalize the variation in organizational contexts across sites, we collected data from parents and mentors and followed an in-depth, qualitative, multi-case study approach to investigate variation in available resources and implementation strategies across seven SEEK sites. Results point to contextual factors that appear to relate to effectiveness of the program and point to recommendations for similar programs seeking to expand in the future.
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