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Exploring the Link Between STEM Activity Leader Practice and Youth Engagement: Findings from the STEM IE Study

December 31, 2018 | Public Programs

The STEM Interest and Engagement (STEM IE) Study was a four-year project funded by the National Science Foundation under the auspices of its Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program that was designed to better understand what types of practices, supports, and opportunities afforded to early adolescent youth: (1) Are especially effective in helping youth experience in-the-moment engagement while participating in ISL activities, and (2) Serve to support growth in STEM interest and aspirations. The study was conducted in a total of nine, STEM-oriented, summer learning programs serving early adolescent youth from low-income communities. In order to answer the study’s research questions, steps were taken to collect data on youth’s in-the-moment experiences using the Experience Sampling Method (ESM). In addition, while ESM data were being collected, steps were being taken to videotape the programming being offered at the time the signal was issued. These data allowed the research team to compare the type of learning environments being provided to youth as well as the practices and approaches being employed by activity leaders with the direct, in-the-moment experiences of participating youth, allowing for a very direct and real-time assessment of the relationship between practice and youth experience. From a practice standpoint, episode quality as measured by the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), statements made by activity leaders to demonstrate the relevance of STEM content, and providing youth with opportunities to experience a sense of agency while undertaking program activities were all found to be related to engagement.


  • REVISE logo
    Principal Investigator
    American Institutes for Research
  • Jennifer Schmidt
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Michigan State University
  • Lee Shumow
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Northern Illinois University
  • Patrick Beymer
    Project Staff
    Michigan State University
  • Joshua Rosenberg
    Project Staff
    Michigan State University
  • Citation


    Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning
    Award Number: DRL-1421198
    Funding Amount: $1,315,359
    Resource Type: Reference Materials
    Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
    Audience: Middle School Children (11-13) | Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals
    Environment Type: Public Programs | Summer and Extended Camps
    Access and Inclusion: Low Socioeconomic Status

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