Collaborative Research: The Development of Culturally Responsive Digital Media to Support STEM Knowledge Acquisition for English Learners

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 to Thursday, June 30, 2022
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Websites, Mobile Apps, and Online Media, Informal/Formal Connections, Higher Education Programs
Adults | Museum/ISE Professionals
Chemistry | Literacy | Mathematics
Access and Inclusion: 
Hispanic/Latinx Communities
English Language Learners
Complexly LLC, Education Development Center

As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants. This project would expand the informal STEM learning field's understanding of how to use digital science media to increase STEM educational experiences and opportunities for English language learners. Across the U.S. there are significant STEM opportunity and achievement gaps for English learners with varying levels of English proficiency. This is at a time when the U.S. is facing a shortage of STEM professionals in the workforce including the life and physical science fields. This project aims to close these gaps and improve English learners' STEM learning outcomes using digital media. Within community colleges, there are multiple site-based programs to provide content to help English learners to learn English and to improve their math and literacy skills. Involving the state community college networks is a critical strategy for gathering important feedback for the pedagogical approach as well as for recruiting English learner research participants. The team will initially study an existing YouTube chemistry series produced by Complexly then produce and test new videos in Spanish using culturally relevant instructional strategies. The target audience is 18-34-year-old English learners. Project partners are Complexly, a producer of digital STEM media and EDC, a research organization with experience in studying informal STEM learning.

The project has the potential to advance knowledge about the use of culturally relevant media to improve STEM opportunities and success for English language learners. Using a Design-Based Implementation Research framework the research questions include: 1) what are the effective production and instructional strategies for creating digital media to teach science to English learners whose native language is Spanish? 2) what science content knowledge do English learners gain when the project's approach is applied to a widely available set of YouTube videos? and 3) how might the findings from the research be applied to future efforts targeting English learners? The project has the potential to significantly broaden participation in science and engineering. Phase 1 of the research will be an exploration of how to apply strategic pedagogical approaches to digital media content development. Interviews will be conducted with educators in 3 focal states with high numbers of English language learners (NY, CA, TX) to reflect on pedagogical foundations for teaching science to English learners. A survey of 30 English learners will provide feedback on the perceived strengths and weaknesses of a selection of existing YouTube chemistry videos. Phase 2 will create/test prototypes of 6 adapted chemistry videos. Forty students (ages 18-34) will be recruited and participate in cognitive interviews with researchers after viewing these videos. Based on this input additional videos will be produced with revised instructional strategies for further testing. Additional rounds of production and testing will be conducted to develop an English learners mini chemistry series. Phase 3 will be a pilot study to gauge the science learning of 75 English learners who will view an 11-episode chemistry miniseries. It will also identify gaps in expected learning to determine whether any further adjustments are necessary to the instructional approach.

This Innovations in Development 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.

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

Team Members

Kelsey SavageKelsey SavagePrincipal Investigator
Ceridwen RileyCeridwen RileyCo-Principal Investigator
Stan MullerStan MullerCo-Principal Investigator
Heather LavigneHeather LavignePrincipal Investigator
Caroline ParkerCaroline ParkerCo-Principal Investigator
Katrina BledsoeKatrina BledsoeCo-Principal Investigator

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