A Systematic Review of STEM Learning and Social-Emotional Development in Out of School Time

Sunday, August 15, 2021 to Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Afterschool Programs, Summer and Extended Camps, Informal/Formal Connections, K-12 Programs
Elementary School Children (6-10) | Middle School Children (11-13) | Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Learning Researchers
Education and learning science | General STEM
McLean Hospital

Research suggests that when both science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and social-emotional development (SED) are supported in afterschool, summer, and other informal settings, young people can better develop skills for the future such as leadership, decision-making, and relationship-building so they could have successful careers/participation in STEM. However, researchers and practitioners working in the out-of-school time (OST) sector often do so without connections across these fields. The appeal for more integration of STEM and SED in OST program delivery and data collection has remained abstract and aspirational. This Literature Review and Synthesis project is the next step needed to move the OST field toward the intentional, explicit, and evidence-based integration of STEM and SED in research and practice. The project will create shared understanding necessary to improve program content, staff training, and evaluation. This synthesis will support future research on unified STEM+SED that can lead to more effective, equitable, and developmentally appropriate programming. Improved programming will contribute to talent development, address STEM workforce needs, and promote socioeconomic mobility to benefit children, youth, educators, and society. This project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments.

This project will systematically examine what domains and skills at the interface of STEM+SED are most researched among K-12 youth in informal STEM learning environments, compared to formal STEM educational environments. The team will further explore how gender, race, and other intersectional forms of equity can be added to the STEM+SED equation. The project team will search and appraise empirical and gray literature (2001-2020) to identify the most commonly researched domains and skills at the interface of STEM+SED in informal environments serving K-12 youth. The review and synthesis process will include four steps: search, appraisal, synthesis, and analysis. The search will begin with STEM+SED skills in four foundational domains (agency, belonging, engagement, and reflection) identified previously with experts from the fields of STEM and SED. The search will include all existing, eligible references from formal K-12 settings to contrast commonly studied domains and skills (e.g., perseverance, self-regulation, teamwork, complex problem-solving, self-awareness) in formal versus informal learning environments. The study approach will then compare these domains and skills by the demographics variables noted above. Following the creation of a strong catalog of evidence, information will be synthesized using three “pillars” for building coherence in STEM+SED integration: phenomenon (the knowing), implementation (the doing) and assessment (the result). These pillars will be used to organize and critically analyze the literature. Building conceptual coherence through a systematic review and synthesis of literature from the fields of STEM and SED will lead to greater understanding of STEM+SED in OST practice, highlight the most important content and skills to learn in informal environments, and identify when and how youth should learn specific content and skills at the interface of STEM+SED. Applying coherence to the integration of STEM+SED ensures that the principles and practices are layered carefully, in ways that avoid superficial checklists or duplication of effort and build meaningfully upon young people’s knowledge and skills. The long-term goal is to broker connections and alignment of STEM+SED across schools and OST programs. Recommendations and a roadmap to guide equitable, effective STEM+SED research, practice, and policy will result from this research.

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

Team Members

Gil NoamGil NoamPrincipal Investigator
Patricia AllenPatricia AllenCo-Principal Investigator

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