NSF INCLUDES: Reengaging the Disengaged - A Community Centered Approach to Improving STEM Pathways for Underrepresented Students
Because of the siloed nature of formal educational curricula, students who opt out of STEM coursework, for whatever reason, lose the opportunity to engage with the domain of science almost entirely, thereby closing the door to the STEM workforce pipeline. This disproportionately impacts students of color and women. This project advances an alliance that consists of a consortium of community-engaged partners, including university and k-12 educational agencies, community colleges, community organizations, cultural institutions and local businesses. The project built around this alliance will leverage interdisciplinary spaces in the curriculum, particularly the humanities and social sciences, across academic levels, as a forum for integrating and applying STEM to bear on the practical, social, economic and political issues of modern life. The PIs establish a physical Community STEM Center as an anchoring institution for STEM engagement. This Center will be situated within the community that the alliance serves, bringing STEM opportunities and engagement to students instead of asking them to come where STEM education is currently provided. The activities enacted through the Community STEM Center will focus on enduring problems experienced by the communities, where students, community residents, teachers, and experts from higher education, industry and other community-based entities can come together to work on understanding them and developing evidenced centered advocacy as a means for addressing them. To facilitate the work at the Community STEM Center, the project creates a Community Ambassadors Program (CAP), leveraging participation across alliance members in partnership with the community. This Design and Development Launch Pilot will cultivate the necessary knowledgebase to develop a scalable model for implementation across diverse urban communities.
This Design and Development Launch Pilot focuses on shifting the narrative of STEM education away from a solitary focus on formalized educational experiences and targets STEM content. This project develops and facilitates a parallel set of activities designed to engage under-represented students in learning how and why STEM is relevant to their lives, and approached through new and non-traditional educational dimensions. The five main objectives of this proposed pilot are to: (1) Develop a pilot alliance of community-engaged partners, including university and k-12 educational agencies, community colleges, community organizations, cultural institutions and industry;(2)Establish a physical Community STEM Advocacy Center as an anchoring institution for change embedded within the community that the pilot alliance serves; (3) Leverage interdisciplinary spaces in curricula, across academic levels, particularly the humanities and social sciences, as a forum for integrating and applying STEM to bear on the practical, social, economic and political issues of modern life; (4) Create a Community Ambassadors Program (CAP), leveraging participation across higher education pilot alliance members in partnership with the community; and (5)Conduct an evaluation of project initiatives and research regarding the usability and feasibility of a systemic approach to developing community-based, interdisciplinary pathways to broaden STEM participation pathways. Efforts to examine the impact of this community-based, interdisciplinary approach concentrates on the proximal outcomes related to STEM interest, self-efficacy and identity. Data will be collected in pre/post format across our three constituent samples: 1) Community STEM Advocacy Center participants; 2) k-12 students; and, 3) postsecondary students. Analysis of data will be conducted through MANCOVAs to account for potential co-variation among construct scores. Qualitative data will also be collected to contextualize findings and enable the development of a rich case study. At least two observations will be conducted in the Community STEM Advocacy Center and the two classroom implementations to document engagement, participant interactions and level of STEM content.
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