June 2022: Sparking and Sustaining STEM interest through Informal Learning Experiences: Reflections on Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Headed as a Field

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Sparking and sustaining interest has long been identified as a central goal of informal STEM learning experiences. As the field has continued to evolve, we are learning more about what it means to foster STEM interests and developing new tools and frameworks for describing and studying these interests and their impact. Join us for this live discussion panel as a group of experts reflect on our ideas about STEM interest in the field of informal STEM learning and consider directions for future education and research efforts. View Blog >>

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June Theme of the Month Panel: Sparking and Sustaining STEM Interest Through Informal Learning Experiences

 

Date & TIme June 28, 2022 at 3:00 PM EDT

Description: Sparking and sustaining interest has long been identified as a central goal of informal STEM learning experiences. As the field has continued to evolve, we are learning more about what it means to foster STEM interests and developing new tools and frameworks for describing and studying these interests and their impact. Join us for this live discussion panel as a group of experts reflect on our ideas about STEM interest in the field of informal STEM learning and consider directions for future education and research efforts.


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Author(s): Bell, J., Besley, J., Cannady, M., Crowley, K., Grack Nelson, A., Philips, T., Riedinger, K., & Storksdieck, M
Publication: Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (Jan 2019)

But what do we mean by STEM “interest”? In 2018, the Evaluation and Measurement Task Force asked a sample of 10 STEM education researchers, science communication scholars, social psychologists, learning scientists, and informal science educators to share their thinking and work on this complex and rich topic.

Author(s): Pattison, S. A., & Dierking, L. D.
Publication: Science Education (Nov 2018)

We conducted a qualitative study with seven low-income mothers and their four-year-old daughters from Head Start to (a) develop a descriptive understanding of science-related interest development for preschool children from traditionally underserved communities and (b) identify differences across families that might explain the variation in children’s interests.

Author(s): Pattison, S. A., Ramos Montañez, S., Santiago, A., Svarovsky, G. N., Douglass, A., Núñez, V., Allen, J., & Wagner, C.
Publication: NARST Annual International Conference (Mar 2022)

Interest is a critical motivating factor shaping how children engage with STEM inside and outside of school and across their lives. In this paper, we introduce the concept of interest catalyst that emerged from longitudinal research with preschool-age children and their families as critical to the process through which each family developed unique interest pathways through their experience with a family-based informal engineering education program.

Author(s): Pattison, S. A., Svarovsky, G., Ramos Montañez, S., Gontan, I., Weiss, S., Núñez, V., Corrie, P., Smith, C., & Benne, M.
Publication: Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (J-PEER) (May 2020)

We conducted in-depth case study research with 15 English- and Spanish-speaking families and their preschool-age children participating in a family-based engineering education program through a local Head Start organization. The study documented how both children and parents developed engineering-related interests through the program and explored the characteristics of and shifts in these interest systems.

Author(s): Shaby, N., Staus, N., Dierking, L. D., & Falk, J. H.
Publication: Science Education (May 2021)

This study examined the dynamics of the STEM interest and participation pathways of three youth in an under-resourced, urban community. These three cases offer insights into how youth with a strong interest in a STEM topic or activity perceived the resources that were available to them in a STEM learning ecosystem and highlight the affordances and constraints each faced in pursuit of their interests.

Author(s): Staus, N. L., Falk, J. H., Penuel, W., Dierking, L., Wyld, J., & Bailey, D.
Publication: Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (Apr 2020)

We examined how “STEM Interested” youth differed from disinterested youth and how interest changed over time from age 11/12 to 12/13. We surveyed youth to measure interest in four components of STEM, used cluster analysis to categorize youth based on STEM interest, and examined how interest profiles and pathways differed for several explanatory factors (e.g., parental support, gender).

Author(s): Takeuchi, L., Vaala, S., & Ahn, J.
Publication: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop

This report presents findings from separate surveys of 1,550 U.S. parents and 600 pre-K–8 teachers on whether, to what extent, and how U.S. children ages 3–12 are linking their learning experiences across home, school, and community settings. The inquiry paid particular attention to the ways in which caregivers and teachers support and, in some cases, impede the development of young children’s interests and the learning associated with pursuing these interests.

Author(s): Pattison, S., Ramos Montañez, S.
Publication: Springer, Cham (Jun 2022)

In this chapter, we describe findings from a retrospective interview study with parents one to two years after they participated in Head Start on Engineering (HSE) initiative. HSE has been developing a family-based program to engage preschool-age children and their families from low-income communities in the engineering design process and simultaneously study how these experiences support long-term family interests related to engineering.

Author(s): Davis, N. R., Marchand, A. D., Moore, S. S., Greene, D., & Colby, A.
Publication: Race Ethnicity and Education (Aug 2021)

This study foregrounds Black youth perspectives to offer additional insight into the role of supplementary programming. Drawing from 15 semi-structured, pre-post interviews with Black youth participating in a six-week summer CDF Freedom Schools program, we analyzed core distinctions drawn between youths’ experiences in the program and in their traditional schools.

Author(s): Davis, N. R., Vossoughi, S., Smith, J. F.
Publication: Learning, Culture and Social Interaction (Feb 2020)

This paper argues for an amplification of the everyday intellectual and political gestures of children as valuable indices and movers of learning. We identify and focus on microacts of self-determination, defined here as, “as contestations and moves to elsewhere that shift activity and dictate future status”. In particular, we consider if and how such microacts that could be cast as idiosyncratic build and shape new possibilities for learning and social interaction, what we refer to here as learning from below.

Author(s): Flávio S. Azevedo
Publication: Science Education (Oct 2017)

I advance theoretically and empirically grounded arguments for broadening how we frame and understand situational interests. ...I conjecture that situational interests are best understood as phenomena that combine both discontinuous and continuous dimensions of experience. To argue this point, I use three in-depth videotaped case studies of the triggering and (when available) retriggering of situational interests in STEM-based practices and show that the continuity + discontinuity lens provides a fine-grained and more accountable description of the phenomenon, its triggering process, and its eventual uptake and development (or not).

Author(s): Azevedo, Flávio S.
Publication: Journal of the Learning Sciences (Nov 2012)

This article seeks to sharpen current conceptualizations of interests and engaged participation, and to derive lessons for the design of interest-driven science learning environments (formal and informal). The empirical basis of the research is a set of ethnographic records of two communities of amateur astronomers, as well as the details of astronomers’ instantiations of the hobby. Hobbies are paradigmatic examples of interest-driven practices and thus they offer an excellent window into truly interest-related phenomena and processes.

Author(s): Flávio S. Azevedo
Publication: Cognition and Instruction (Apr 2011)

Based on a three-year-long ethnography of the hobby of model rocketry, I present a practice-centered theory of interest relationships—that is, the pattern of long-term, self-motivated engagement in open-ended practices that has been theorized under the concept of individual interests. In contrast to extant theories of individual interests, in which persistent engagement is pegged to a topic-specific relationship (e.g., a model rocketeer has an interest in the topic of rocketry, broadly conceived), I propose that persistence in a practice of interest is best understood in terms of what I call lines of practice.