Collaborative Research: A Multi-level Investigation of STEM Mentoring - Outcomes for Middle School Youth, their Mentors, and Partner Organizations

Sunday, September 1, 2019 to Saturday, August 31, 2024
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Afterschool Programs, Community Outreach Programs, Informal/Formal Connections, Higher Education Programs
Elementary School Children (6-10) | Middle School Children (11-13) | Scientists
General STEM
Northwestern University, DePaul University

Mentoring is a widely accepted strategy for supporting positive socioemotional and cognitive development across a variety of sectors including education, workforce development, and the justice system. An estimated 2.5 million volunteer mentors support youth development in the United States each year. However, there is broad concern that practice has outpaced empirical testing, with significant gaps in the research literature on important modifiers of mentoring relationships and their impacts. This is especially true for mentoring youth ages 10-14 in STEM. Studying highly successful programs may be one way to better understand the role of mentoring and moderators of mentoring effectiveness. The Science Club, a community-based STEM mentoring program for middle-grade youth in the Chicago area, will provide multiple sites for a research study to examine three important issues for advancing theory and practice for STEM mentoring. These issues include (1) understanding STEM mentoring for youth in the middle grades, (2) identifying outcomes and motivations for scientist mentors to more fully participate in mentoring programs, and (3) examining a model of middle-school-focused STEM mentoring collaboration.

Through a series of three studies, the team will investigate which elements of the mentoring relationships are associated with the demonstrated STEM identity gains in youth participants. The work will also contribute much-needed data on the impact of STEM mentoring relationships on the mentors themselves. Study 1 is designed as a retrospective study of program alumni, both youth and mentors, about the nature and extent of each their STEM identity shifts during their time in Science Club. A purposeful sample of 160+ youth and 100+ mentor alumni will participate. Study 2 is a prospective study of three consecutive cohorts of active Science Club participants, built on data and findings from Study 1. In Study 2, the team will design and implement a new Identity-Focused Mentoring Observation Instrument specifically aimed at exploring the nature and quality of mentoring relationships and their role in science identity development longitudinally. Three independent cohorts of 40 youth and 20 mentors each will participate. Study 3 is retrospective, examining how participating individuals and organizations perceive and are impacted by mentoring. The three studies employ a mixed methods approach utilizing surveys, observations, individual interviews, and document review.

This proposal will fill critical gaps in the mentoring literature regarding the formative middle school years through novel, empirical research. Building on the current literature and practice, outcomes of the work will inform practice and enhance knowledge-building in the field on both mentoring relationships and the collective impact of university-school-OST partnerships.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which supports innovative research, approaches, and resources for use in a variety of learning settings.

Funding Program: 
Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 
Funding Amount: 
Funding Program: 
Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 
Funding Amount: 

Team Members

Michael KennedyMichael KennedyPrincipal Investigator
Rabiah MayasCo-Principal Investigator
Bernadette SanchezBernadette SanchezPrincipal Investigator

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