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  1. Abstract Background Capturing measures of students’ attitudes toward science has long been a focus within the field of science education. The resulting interest has led to the development of many instruments over the years. There is considerable disagreement about how attitudes should be measured, and especially whether students’ attitudes toward science can or should be measured unidimensionally, or whether separate attitude dimensions or subscales should be considered. When it is agreed upon that the attitudes toward science construct should be measured along separate subscales, there is no consensus about which subscales should be used. Methods A streamlined version of the modified Attitudes Towards Science Inventory (mATSI), a widely used science measurement instrument, was validated for a more diverse sample as compared to the original study (Weinburgh and Steele in Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering 6:87–94, 2000). The analytical approach used factor analyses and longitudinal measurement invariance. The study used a sample of 2016 self-reported responses from 6 and 7th grade students. The factor analysis elucidated the factor structure of students’ attitudes toward science, and some modifications were made in accordance with the results. Measurement invariance analysis was used to confirm the stability of the measure. Resultsmore »Our results support that the subscales, anxiety toward science and value and enjoyment of science , are two factors and stable over time. Conclusions Our results suggest that our proposed modified factor structure for students’ attitudes toward science is reliable, valid, and appropriate for use in longitudinal studies. This study and its resulting streamlined mATSI survey could be of value to those interested in studying student engagement and measuring middle-school students' attitudes toward science.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Our NSF-funded project, CoBuild19, sought to address the large-scale shift to at-home learning based on nationwide school closures that occurred during COVID-19 through creating making/STEM activities for families with children in grades K-6. Representing multiple organizations, our CoBuild19 project team developed approximately 60 STEM activities that make use of items readily available in most households. From March through June 2020, we produced and shared videos and activity guides, averaging 3+ new activities per week. Initially, the activities consisted of whatever team members could pull together, but we soon created weekly themes with associated activities, including Design and Prototype Week, Textiles Week, Social and Emotional Learning Week, and one week which highlighted kids sharing cooking and baking recipes for other kids. All activities were delivered fully online. To do so, our team started a Facebook group on March 13, 2020. Membership grew to 3490 followers by April 1st, to 4245 by May 1st, and leveled off at approximately 5100 members since June 2020. To date, 22 of our videos have over 1000 views, with the highest garnering 23K views. However, we had very little participation in the form of submitted videos, images, or text from families sharing what they were creating,more »limiting our possible analyses. While we had some initial participation by members, as the FB group grew, substantive evidence of participation faded. To better understand this drop, we polled FB group members about their use of the activities. Responses (n = 101) were dominated by the option, "We are glad to know the ideas are available, but we are not using much" (49%), followed by, "We occasionally do activities" (35%). At this point, we had no data about home participation, so we decided to experiment with different approaches. Our next efforts focused on conducting virtual maker/STEM camps. Leveraging the content produced in the first months of CoBuild19, we hosted two rounds of Camp CoBuild by the end of July, serving close to 100 campers. The camps generated richer data in the form of recorded Zoom camp sessions where campers made synchronously with educators and youth-created Flipgrid videos where campers shared their process and products for each activity. We also collected post-camp surveys and some caregiver interviews. Preliminary analyses have focused on the range of participant engagement and which malleable factors may be associated with deeper engagement. Initial feedback from caregivers indicated that their children gained confidence to experiment with simple materials through engaging in these activities. This project sought to fill what we perceived as a developing need in the community at a large scale (e.g., across the US). Although we have not achieved the level of success we expected, the project achieved quick growth that took us in a different direction than we originally intended. Overall, we created content that educators and families can use to engage kids with minimal materials. Additionally, we have a few models of extended engagement (e.g., Camp CoBuild) that we can develop further into future offerings.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  3. Early in the pandemic we gathered a group of educators to create and share at-home educational opportunities for families to design and make STEAM projects while at home. As this effort, CoBuild19, continued, we decided to extend our offerings to include basic computer programming. To accomplish this, we created an offering called the Design with Code Club (DwCC). We structured DwCC to be different from other common coding offerings in that we wanted the main focus to be on kids designing solutions to problems that might include the use of technology and coding. We were purposeful in this decision for two main reasons. First, we wanted to make our coding club more interesting to girls, where previous research demonstrates their interest in designing solutions. Second, we wanted this effort to be different from most programming instruction, where coding activities use programming as the core of instruction and application in authentic and student-selected contexts plays a secondary role. DwCC was set up so that each of the first four weeks had a different larger challenge that was COVID-19 related and sessions unfolded with alternating smaller challenges, discussion around design and coding instruction that would develop their skills and knowledge of micro:bitmore »capabilities. We culminated DwCC with an open-ended project where the kids were given the challenge of coming up with their own problem for which they might incorporate micro:bit as part of the solution. Because we were doing all of this online, we used the micro:bit interface through Microsoft MakeCode, which includes a functional simulator. From our experiences we realized that simulations are not as enticing as physical computing with a tangible device, so we set up an incentive where youth who participated in at least three sessions of the club would receive a physical micro:bit. We advertised DwCC through Facebook and twitter and had nearly 200 families register their kids to participate. In the end, a total of 52 micro:bits were sent to youth participants. Based on this success, we sought to expand the effort and increase accessibility for groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM. In spring 2021, we offered a Girls DwCC. This was a redesigned version of the club where the focus was even more on problem-solving through design. The club was run by all women, including one from the US, an Industrial Engineer from Mexico and a computer programmer from Albania. More than 50 girls from 17 countries participated in the club! We are working on another version of GDwCC that will be offered in Spanish and focus on Latina girls in the US and Mexico. In the most recent iteration of DwCC we are working with an educator at a school for deaf students to create a version of the club that works for their students. We are doing some modification of activities and recreating videos that involve sign language interpretation. In this presentation we will report on the variants of DwCC, results from participant feedback surveys and plans for future versions.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  4. Caregivers are critical to children’s academic and social growth and development. As an adult who provides direct care and support, caregivers play a large role in what concepts and experiences children are exposed to, engage with, and pursue. A growing body of research has highlighted how caregiver influence manifests within out-of-school contexts, yet less is known about the impact of out-of-school learning and engagement from the perspectives of caregivers themselves. This study explored experiences and shifts in caregiver perceptions of shifts within themselves and their children through participation in an out-of-school home-based engineering program. Data were derived from post-program interviews with over 20 participating caregivers from three years of the program. Results illuminate various experiences and shifts in caregiver self-perception and understanding of their children’s learning and development. Specifically, these shifts included enhanced self-reflection and introspection, positive shifts in caregiver interactions with children, and observed increases in self-efficacy and complex thinking within children. Findings contribute to a growing body of knowledge of family engagement and the distinct perspective that caregivers can provide on children’s learning. Further, shifts in caregiver self-concept and self-efficacy in engaging in engineering content make a unique contribution and provide insights into ways that caregiver engagement inmore »out-of-school learning might be adapted to incorporate more accessible learning opportunities, especially those that occur in the home.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  5. STEM education programs are often formulated with a "hands-on activities" focus across a wide array of topics from robotics to rockets to ecology. Traditionally, the impact of these programs is based on surveys of youth on program-specific experiences or the youths’ interest and impressions of science in general. In this manuscript, we offer a new approach to analyzing science programming design and youth participant impact. The conceptual framework discussed here concentrates on the organization and analysis of common learning activities and instructional strategies. We establish instrument validity and reliability through an analysis of validity threats and pilot study results. We conclude by using this instrument in an example analysis of a STEM education program.
  6. Caregivers are one of the most significant influences in their children’s engineering engagement at a young age; however, the roles caregivers can play in supporting their children is less understood. Employing an intrinsic case study on a five-month engineering program conducted in an out-of-school context, we illustrate the multiple and different roles that three caregivers enacted, and the contextual factors of the program that influenced and shaped their role enactment. We observed 12 dynamic, complex, and evolving roles that caregivers endorsed to support their child throughout the engineering design process. These roles were situated within preexisting rules and expectations as caregivers while also developing an understanding of the rules and expectations of an engineer through their social interactions with volunteer engineers and makers. This work contributes to our understanding of how to create environments to enable caregivers to best support their children’s STEM learning process.
  7. The objective of this three-year National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (NSF-ITEST) project is to develop, implement, and refine a program for integrating engineering design practices with an emphasis on emerging technologies (i.e., making, DIY electronics) into home environments of families with a child in grade 3-6 from under-resourced communities. This project has two components. Each family (1) defines a home- or community-based problem and creates a prototype to improve the lives of self or others; and (2) engages in low-cost engineering design kits in their home environments. This paper presents findings from two years of interview data, as well video data collected in project sessions and home environments from 21 families. Results are presented as highlights of finding from on-going analyses to address three research aims.
  8. Abraham, Joel K. (Ed.)
    Undergraduate research experiences in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields are championed for promoting students’ personal and professional development. Mentorship is an integral part of undergraduate research, as effective mentorship maximizes the benefits undergraduates realize from participating in research. Yet almost no research examines instances in which mentoring is less effective or even problematic, even though prior research on mentoring in workplace settings suggests negative mentoring experiences are common. Here, we report the results of a qualitative study to define and characterize negative mentoring experiences of undergraduate life science researchers. Undergraduate researchers in our study reported seven major ways they experienced negative mentoring: absenteeism, abuse of power, interpersonal mismatch, lack of career support, lack of psychosocial support, misaligned expectations, and unequal treatment. They described some of these experiences as the result of absence of positive mentoring behavior and others as actively harmful behavior, both of which they perceive as detrimental to their psychosocial and career development. Our results are useful to mentors for reflecting on ways their behaviors might be perceived as harmful or unhelpful. These findings can also serve as a foundation for future research aimed at examining the prevalence and impact of negative mentoring experiences in undergraduate research.