Researching a Strengths-Based Approach to Engineering Education Using Design Squad LatinX
This three-year research and implementation project empowers middle school LatinX youth to employ their own assets and funds of knowledge to solve community problems through engineering. Only 7% of adults in the STEM job cluster are of Hispanic/Latino origin. There is a continuing need for filling engineering jobs in our current and future economy. This project will significantly broaden participation of LatinX youth in engineering activities at a critical point as they make career decisions. Design Squad Global LatinX expands on a tested model previously funded by NSF and shown to be successful. It will enable LatinX youth to view themselves as designers and engineers and to build from their strengths to expand their skills and participation in science and engineering. The project goals are to: 1) develop an innovative inclusive approach to informal engineering education for LatinX students that can broaden their engineering participation and that of other underrepresented groups, (2) to galvanize collaborations across diverse local, national, and international stakeholders to create a STEM learning ecosystem and (3) to advance knowledge about a STEM pedagogy that bridges personal-cultural identity and experience with engineering knowledge and skills. Project deliverables include a conceptual framework for a strength-based approach to engineering education for LatinX youth, a program model that is asset based, a collection of educational resources including a club guide for how to scaffold culturally responsive engineering challenge activities, an online training course for club leaders, and a mentoring strategy for university engineering students working with middle school youth. Project partners include the global education organization, iEARN, the Society of Women Engineers, and various University engineering programs.
The research study will employ an experimental study design to evaluate the impact on youth participating in the Design Squad LatinX programs. The key research questions are (1) Does participation increase students' positive perceptions of themselves and understanding of engineering and global perspectives? (2) To what extent do changes in understanding engineering vary by community (site) and by student characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity)? (3) Do educators and club leaders increase their positive perceptions of youths' funds of knowledge and their own understanding of engineering? and (4) Do university mentors increase their ability to lead informal engineering/STEM education with middle school youth? A sample from 72 local Design Squad LatinX clubs with an enrollment of 10-15 students will be drawn with half randomly assigned to the participant condition and half to the control condition. Methods used include pre and post surveys, implementation logs for checks on program implementation, site visits to carry out observations, focus groups with students and interviews with adult leaders. Data will be analyzed by estimating hierarchical linear models with observations. In addition, in-situ ethnographically-oriented observations as well as interviews at two sites will be used to develop qualitative case studies.
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.
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