The STEM Effect: Developing a Research Action Agenda for Assessing the Long-Term Impacts of STEM Programs for Girls
Gathering evidence for the long-term impact of programs for youth on their involvement in STEM studies and careers continues to be a challenge, especially for program interventions happening in earlier stages of development (e.g., elementary, middle, high-school years. Work that focuses on mechanisms for mitigating these challenges is important. The conference and associated activities aim to build a research action agenda that is rooted in practice to support better understanding of the long-term impacts of informal STEM programs for girls provided by cultural institutions, along with methods and approaches for measuring them. The project team will use a collaborative co-design approach to establish a STEM for Girls Research Alliance. The Alliance will include three levels of participants, with different levels of commitment: a core planning group (CPG) of 8-10 people, approximately 20-25 participating members (PM) and 50-60 interested stakeholder group representatives (SGR). The project team will utilize face-to-face meetings, digital engagement strategies, and surveys to develop the agenda and solicit multiple rounds of feedback and input. The CPG, consisting of leaders and representatives from state-based STEM for Girls organizations that are part of the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) and members of the New York State STEAM for Girls Collaborative, will be responsible for setting priorities and guiding the action agenda. The PM will include representatives (educators and researchers) from informal STEM programs at cultural institutions that participate in the state-based collaboratives. The PM will be regularly consulted on important aspects of the action agenda that relate to their work. Finally, the SGR will include representatives from several audiences that are being served by or work with the participating members: girls and young women, parents, educators, funders, researchers and employers. The SG will be engaged via focus groups virtually or at national meetings to which these individuals attend.
To support broader involvement of professionals working in this sector, a comprehensive digital engagement plan using web and social media networks will be developed. The plan will utilize a consistent hashtag, #STEMeffect, allowing participants to follow the conversation across social media platforms. Social media platforms to be utilized will include Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Snapchat and others. More than 60,000 people will be engaged via the networks of the NY STEAM Collaborative, NGCP, WSKG Public Media and project partners. A robust research action plan will position researchers to further explore the role of informal STEM education experiences in shaping the career choices of girls and identify where there are breaks in the hoped-for pathways to STEM college and careers. It also will benefit informal STEM organizations by yielding information that will help them to fine-tune their programs for girls and young women. Ultimately, contributions to the knowledge base will result in broadened participation of girls and women in STEM programs and careers. This work is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program as part of its strategy to enhance learning in informal environments and support innovative research, approaches, and resources for use in a variety of settings.
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.