Diálogos: Harnessing Latinx Community Cultural Wealth to Support Executive Function in Early Childhood through Family Engineering Experiences
This award is funded in part under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Public Law 117-2).
It has been well documented that under-resourced Latinx communities face persistent barriers to accessing quality STEM education and STEM careers, particularly in the field of engineering. For young children and their families from these communities, the development of executive function skills offers promising pathways to support educational success and prepare children to engage with STEM practices and content. Executive function skills, such as focusing attention, retaining information, and managing emotions are critical for children’s development and long-term success, and have been identified as central to engagement with STEM practices and content, whether in or out of school. However, much of the work on development of executive function skills to date has been conducted with White, middle-class children and has largely ignored the knowledge, values, or perspectives of other communities, including Latinx families. Similar gaps also exist in attention to culturally responsive approaches to using family-based STEM activities to support executive function skills. Taken together, there is a critical need to work with Latinx communities to re-imagine the intersection of STEM learning and executive function skills using equity-based frameworks. This Pilot and Feasibility project will develop and test a new participatory, dialogic method that leverages informal family engineering activities to support the development of executive function skills for preschool-age children from Latinx families. The combination of this proposal’s unique engagement of parents as research partners with the study of engineering and executive functions could lay the foundation for a promising program of future equity-focused research.
Three research questions will guide the study: 1) What knowledge, assets, and practices already exist within Latinx families related to these executive function skills? 2) What aspects of executive function skills can be supported through informal family engineering activities? and 3) What are promising design strategies for adapting informal family engineering activities to highlight family assets and support executive function skills for young children? To address these questions, the project team will engage Latinx parents in a dialogue series in which parents are central collaborators, sharing their in-depth perspectives and partnering with researchers to develop conceptual frameworks and new approaches. Data generated through these ongoing discussions will be analyzed using (a) qualitative, participatory approaches, including iterative co-development and refinement of emergent themes with parents, (b) detailed inductive coding of parent dialogue group discussions using grounded theory techniques, and (c) retrospective analysis at the end of the project. The parent dialogue series will be supported by a systematic literature review examining the intersections between engineering design, executive function, and the strengths and assets within Latinx families. The results of the exploratory research will include a (1) conceptual framework co-developed with parents that highlights promising opportunities and design strategies for using family engineering design activities to support executive function skills for preschool-age children from Latinx families and (2) research agenda outlining questions and priorities for future work that reflect the goals and interests of this community. Aligned with project’s equity approach, the team will work collaboratively with project partners and families for dissemination, focusing on amplifying community voices, sharing challenges and successes, and supporting improvements in the local community. Results will also be broadly shared with educators and researchers to advance knowledge and promote new equitable approaches to collaborating with parents from Latinx communities.
This Pilots and Feasibility project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program.