Effective STEM Practices

Cascading Influences: Long-Term Impacts of Informal STEM Experiences for Girls

Focused specifically on young women who participated in girls-only STEM programs at least 5-25+ years ago, the study documents young women's perceptions of their experiences in these programs and the ways in which this participation influenced their future choices in education, careers, leisure pursuits, and ways of thinking about what science is and who does it. Additionally, it explores potential long-term influences on young women's lives more generally, beyond STEM. This publication describes the results of a research study conducted by Dale McCreedy, Ph.D. (The Franklin Institute) and Lynn D. Dierking, Ph.D. (Oregon State University) to better understand the long-term significance of informal STEM programs for girls.

Memo to the Education to Innovate Campaign from "the July 19th Collaboration" (PDF)

In November 2009 President Obama launched "Education to Innovate", a nationwide initiative with three objectives: to increase STEM literacy especially in critical thinking and in depth learning; to move Americans from the middle to the top in global achievement in STEM fields in the next decade; and to focus on STEM learning and career pathways for underrepresented groups including women and girls. In July 2010 Girls in STEM Collaboration brought together practitioners, policy makers and community input to come up with recommendations. These include educational strategies and government actions.

Eyeballs in the Fridge: Sources of Early Interest in Science

This report from the International Journal of Science Education examines the accounts of the first engaging science experiences of scientists and graduate students in the STEM field. The researchers found that most participants interviewed became interested in science before middle school. Results show that encouragement and the fostering of student engagement are more effective at keeping students interested in science than preparing them for standardized exams. The implication is that better training for teachers on content and increasing student understanding of scientific principles is less important than other factors such as including a variety of activities and content, providing an engaging environment and having students feel comfortable asking questions.

Encouraging Girls in Math and Science (PDF)

The National Center for Education Research, one of the four centers within the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education, developed this practice guide that aggregates the best available evidence and expertise to provide educators with specific recommendations on how to encourage girls in the fields of math and science. The guide offers five actionable recommendations to teachers and other educators, including coaches, counselors, and principals.

Engagement, Capacity and Continuity: A Trilogy for Student Success (PDF)

Sponsored by the GE Foundation, and produced by the Science Museum of Minnesota and Campbell-Kibler Associates, this report describes theory and research on ways to increase the number and diversity of those pursuing education and careers in STEM. The report identifies the components necessary to increase success and gives recommendations for implementing these components into teaching interactions and student curricula.

Five Myths about Girls and Science

The National Science Foundation’s Research on Gender in Science and Engineering program discusses five myths about girls and science, presents the real scenario for each and offers related resources.

Improving Science Education: The Role of Scientists

This report by the Space Science Institute recommends that scientists and educators collaborate and coordinate to continuously improve science education. The authors advise educators and scientists to use the National Science Education Standards as the basis for involvement in K-12 education as advocates, resources or partners.

What Research Says About…Encouraging Girls to Pursue Math and Science?

To encourage girls to pursue careers in science and math, this article from the Educational Leadership journal summarizes research and recommends that we concentrate on girls’ self-perception of their abilities, also called their self-efficacy. We must teach students that academic abilities are not static but improvable, incorporate female role models in math and science, and give ongoing informational feedback that praises effort, identifies specific errors and points out improvement in strategy.

Inquiry-Based Science Instruction – What is It and Does It Matter?

Results from a Research Synthesis Years 1984 to 2002 With data from 138 studies, this study published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching shows clear, positive outcomes favoring inquiry-based instructional practices. In particular, practices found most effective emphasized student active thinking or responsibility for learning practices, have students draw conclusions from data, generate questions, design experiments, and communicate findings. These conclusions are not reflected in current educational policy where teachers are limited by the need to cover many topics.

Important, But Not for Me: Parents and Students in Kansas and Missouri Talk about Math, Science and Technology Education

There is growing consensus among the nation’s business, government and higher education leaders that unless schools do more to train and nurture a whole new generation of young Americans with strong skills in math, science and technology, U.S. leadership in the world economy is at risk. However, Public Agenda’s report, Important, But Not for Me, concludes that Kansas and Missouri parents and students don’t agree with each other about this. This study finds just 25% of Kansas/Missouri parents think their children should be studying more math and science; 70% think things “are fine as they are now.” The report concludes that while students do understand the need for strong math and science backgrounds, what motivates students to take more advanced math and science courses is an understanding of its relationship to concrete college and career opportunities.

Harvard Family Research Project

The Harvard Family Research Project promotes the use of out-of-school time to increase competency in STEM. This website includes out-of-school time programs; evaluations that the Harvard Family Research project is currently tracking; and an extensive research and evaluation database and bibliography.

Science by Stealth (PDF)

This article, from Vol. 25, Issue 24 of Education Week, discusses the benefits of afterschool programs in helping to bolster the country’s pipeline of young scientists and increase our overall competitiveness in the global marketplace. The article cites research on the successes and benefits of afterschool programs and includes a list of strategies to integrate science into a wide range of other afterschool curricula.

Science in After-School Market Research Study

This study, by After School at University of California, Berkley, sought to determine which after-school programs do science, what exactly they do, and what their needs are. The study shows that there is interest in and understanding of the importance of science activities after-school; however across programs there are uneven levels of quality and quantity of science programming.

Afterschool Programs: At the STEM of learning

This brief by the Coalition for Science After School explains that because of the shift from the 20th century industrial economy to the 21st century information economy, more jobs require not only a college education, but also more proficiency in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. After school programs are a promising remedy to reinforce and extend concepts taught in school, and should be a part of a more comprehensive approach to allow youth to discover an interest and aptitude in STEM.

National Conference on Science After School – Santa Fe, New Mexico January 28-30, 2004

The National Conference on Science After School identified both the demand to improve science performance in K-12 education, and the demand for quality after school care as an appropriate impetus and setting to launch inquiry based STEM experiences. The participants created a vision with 7 steps and a 5 year strategic plan to use existing private and public organizations to cost-effectively establish a long-term and sustainable framework to support youth science and math learning.

Learning Science in Informal Environments: Places, People, and Pursuits

This highly-anticipated report from the (U.S.) National Research Council (NRC) reveals that “tens of millions of Americans learn about science in informal ways - by visiting museums and aquariums, attending after-school programs, pursuing personal hobbies, and watching TV documentaries, for example. There is abundant evidence that these programs and settings, and even everyday experiences such as a walk in the park, contribute to people's knowledge and interest in science." The report also points to evidence that participation in informal science learning (like volunteering in the collection of scientific data) can promote informed civic engagement on science-related issues such as local environmental concerns.

Guide to Evaluating Promising Practices in Informal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education for Girls

A study by Girls Scouts of the USA and Motorola identifies three ways to engaging girls in science and math. These strategies, excerpted from the executive summary of this report, are: Encourage active, hands-on participation rather than demonstration or lecture; Design activities that allow for experimentation and problem solving; Show girls how STEM disciplines are part of and related to their everyday experience; Allow girls freedom to choose the curriculum themes and activities that interest them most; Provide positive relationships with role models and mentors;Use mentors to bring context to potential career choices;Choose mentors from diverse backgrounds to allow girls to see others like them and different from them who are succeeding in STEM careers.” (pg. 6-8)

Science in After School (PDF)

Produced by the Coalition for Science After School, this “blueprint for action” lays out required tasks necessary to ensure that young people from all backgrounds have access to high quality STEM learning experiences during their out of school hours. The paper also lists sample successful programs in curriculum development, professional development, and research and evaluation

Upping the Numbers (PDF)

This report, commissioned by the GE Foundation and researched by the Education Development Center, Inc. and Campbell-Kibler Associates, Inc. presents data on effective ways to increase underrepresented students’ motivation and success in STEM fields. The practices are intended for the use of educators, funders, policymakers and parents.