Exploring High-Quality and Culturally Responsive Math Afterschool Program Practices for Under-Represented Minority Youth
This award was provided as part of NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowships (SPRF) program and is supported by SBE's Developmental Sciences program and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources' (EHR) Advancing Informal STEM Learning program. The goal of the SPRF program is to prepare promising, early career doctoral-level scientists for scientific careers in academia, industry or private sector, and government. SPRF awards involve two years of training under the sponsorship of established scientists and encourage Postdoctoral Fellows to perform independent research. NSF seeks to promote the participation of scientists from all segments of the scientific community, including those from underrepresented groups, in its research programs and activities; the postdoctoral period is considered to be an important level of professional development in attaining this goal. Each Postdoctoral Fellow must address important scientific questions that advance their respective disciplinary fields. Under the sponsorship of Dr. Sandra D. Simpkins at the University of California, Irvine, this postdoctoral fellowship award supports an early career scientist exploring high-quality and culturally responsive, math afterschool program (ASP) practices for under-represented minority (URM) youth. Mathematical proficiency is the foundation of youth's STEM pursuits. Yet today, far too many youth do not pursue STEM based on a perception that they are "not good at math". Students need to engage in contexts that spark their interest and their continued mastery and growth. ASPs are settings for such dynamic opportunities, particularly for URM students such as Latinos who attend lower quality schools and do not feel supported. In college, URM students often struggle with uninspiring and culturally incongruent STEM learning environments. The intergenerational nature of university-based STEM ASPs, whereby younger students are paired with undergraduate (UG) mentors, are opportunities to support both K-12 and UG students' motivational beliefs in math and STEM more broadly. This project will examine these intergenerational developmental processes in the context of a math enrichment ASP located at a Hispanic-Serving Institution. By studying how ASPs can serve as an important lever for promoting URM students' access and success in STEM, this project seeks to meaningfully inform efforts to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in these fields.
This project seeks to understand how participating in a math enrichment ASP supports both youth participants' and UG mentors' motivational beliefs in math; to describe high-quality and culturally responsive practices; and to understand how to support the effectiveness of youth-staff relationships. To accomplish these research objectives, data will be collected from both youth participants and UG mentors through multiple methods including surveys, in-depth interviews, participant-observations, and video observations of youth-staff interactions. This project will add to our understanding of university-ASP partnerships. Further, the knowledge gained from this study will impact the larger landscape of practice and research on STEM ASPs by 1) addressing critical gaps in the current literature on high-quality and culturally responsive STEM ASP practices and 2) informing ASP staff development training. Overall, this mixed methods project will provide critical and rich information on the ways that ASPs can effectively deliver on its promise of promoting positive development for all youth, especially URM youth who may need and benefit from these spaces the most. The invaluable insight garnered from this study will be disseminated to traditional academic audiences to advance knowledge, as well as to local, state, and national organizations to inform the larger landscape of practice in STEM ASPs.
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.