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Project Descriptions

Instrument Development: Racially & Ethnically Minoritized Youths’ Varied Out-Of-School-Time Experiences and Their Effects on STEM Attitudes, Identity, and Career Interest

September 1, 2022 - June 30, 2024

Increasing the diversity of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce hinges on understanding the impact of the many related, pre-college experiences of the nation’s youth. While formal preparation, such as high school course-taking, has a major influence, research has shown that out-of-school-time activities have a much larger role in shaping the attitudes, identity, and career interests of students, particularly those who are members of groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields (Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and/or Pacific Islander). A wide range of both innovative adult-led (science clubs, internships, museum-going, competitions, summer camps) and personal-choice (hobbies, family talk, games, simulations, social media, online courses) options exist. This project studies the variety and availability such experiences to pre-college students. The project is particularly interested in how community cultural capital is leveraged through informal activities and experiences, drawing upon the “funds of knowledge” that culturally diverse students bring to their STEM experiences (e.g., high aspirations, multilingual facility, building of sustaining social networks, and the capacity to challenge negative stereotyping). This study has the capability to begin to reveal evidence-based measures of the absolute and relative effectiveness of promising informal educational practices, including many developed and disseminated by NSF-funded programs. Understanding the ecology of precollege influencers and the hypotheses on which they are based, along with providing initial measures of the efficacy of multiple pathways attempting to broaden participation of students from underrepresented groups in STEM majors and careers, will aid decision-making that will maximize the strategic impact of federal and local efforts.

The project first collects hypotheses from the wide variety of stakeholders (educators, researchers, and students) about the kinds of experiences that make a difference in increasing students’ STEM identity and career interest. Identifying the descriptive attributes that characterize opportunities across individual programs and validating a multi-part instrument to ascertain student experiences will be carried out through a review of relevant literature, surveying stakeholders using crowdsourced platforms, and through in-depth interviews with 50 providers. A sample of 1,000 students from 2- and 4-year college and universities, drawn from minority-serving institutions, such as Historically Black Colleges, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities will serve to establish the validity and reliability of the derived instrument and provide estimates of the availability and frequency of involvement. Psychometric methods and factor analysis will guide us in combining related variables into indices that reflect underlying constructs. Propensity score weighting will be employed for estimating effects when exposure to certain OST activities is confounded with other factors (e.g., parental education, SES). Path models and structural equation models (SEM) will be employed to build models that use causal or time related variables, for instance, students’ career interests at different times in their pre-college experience. The study goes beyond evaluation of individual experiences in addressing important questions that will help policy makers, educators, parents, and students understand which OST opportunities serve the diverse values and goals of members of underrepresented groups, boosting their likelihood of pursuing STEM careers. This project is co-funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) and EHR CORE Research (ECR) programs.


Funding Program: AISL, ECR-EHR Core Research
Award Number: 2215050
Funding Amount: $950,262.00


  • Philip Sadler
    Principal Investigator
    Harvard University
  • IMG 9584
    Co-Principal Investigator
  • Monique Ross
    Co-Principal Investigator
  • REVISE logo
    Co-Principal Investigator
  • Gerhard Sonnert
    Co-Principal Investigator
  • Discipline: General STEM
    Audience: Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Undergraduate/Graduate Students | Learning Researchers
    Environment Type: Media and Technology | Public Programs | Exhibitions | Informal/Formal Connections | Higher Education Programs
    Access and Inclusion: Ethnic/Racial | Black/African American Communities | Hispanic/Latinx Communities | Indigenous and Tribal Communities | Pacific Islander Communities

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