Black SciGirls: Investigating a Culturally Responsive Media-enriched Approach to STEM Teaching and Learning
Black girls display high interest, confidence and ability in STEM but face multiple barriers including racial, ethnic and gender stereotypes, low exposure to STEM role models, low awareness of diverse STEM fields and financial obstacles to STEM education. It is critical to infuse STEM education with specific and intentional culturally responsive and anti-racist strategies to attract and retain Black girls in STEM. Through this combination of media, role modeling and outreach, Black SciGirls will help increase access to STEM education for Black girls, preparing them for future workforce participation. This project will study the impacts on elementary/middle school Black girls’ exposure to early career Black female STEM professionals as role models. Deliverables include 1) professional development for STEM educators and Black STEM professional women to prepare them to lead STEM programs for girls 2) a PBS series of role model videos of early-career Black STEM professionals and 3) a research study that examines how/if in person and media-based STEM role models increase Black girls’ interest and confidence in STEM, motivation to pursue future STEM studies, and STEM identity. While women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, they are underrepresented in STEM and only 1.6% are Black women.
The research study will examine how educators’ use of role models addresses a critical barrier for Black girls, seeing women in STEM who look like them. The research study questions are: How and in what ways do Black STEM women role models influence Black girls’ interest in STEM? How and to what extent do role models report changes in their confidence and ability to engage girls in STEM as a result of training in best practices in role modelling? and, How and to what extent are parents engaged in supporting girls’ involvement in STEM, as a result of the participation of role models? The research team will visit participating local SciGirls programs to collect qualitative data, including observations of program activities, interviews, and focus groups. To ensure reliable outcomes and utilize robust theoretical underpinnings, the research will combine pre/post survey data and an in-depth cross-case studies employing qualitative and quantitative data collection. This mixed-methods approach will enable gathering data that comprehensively offers insight into Black girls’ STEM experiences and those of the Black STEM professional women role models and parents who support them. Qualitative data that centers girls’, role models’, and parents’ perspectives will contribute to this identity-centered study. A culturally responsive evaluation will determine the extent to which the project builds educators’ ability to integrate equitable and anti-racist practices to build Black girls’ interest and confidence in STEM studies.
This Research in Service to Practice project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to (a) advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments; (b) provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; (c) advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and (d) engage the public of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments.
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