Facilitating sustainable partnerships for STEM education and accessible pathways for STEM students using an evidence-based model

  • Abstract

    Abstract The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), are deeply impacted by systemic educational inequities in the U.S. public school system, creating barriers to science, often among racial minorities and individuals from underserved communities. Results of our recent work suggests that some of these barriers can be mitigated through weekly STEM enrichment activities in underserved high school classrooms, facilitated by a team of near-peer mentors (NPMs) from the same or nearby communities; high school students gain more positive attitudes toward science and scientists, increased content knowledge, and increased understanding of the relevance of science in their lives by the conclusion of the program. Our objectives in this proposal are to disseminate sustainable, refined NPM-led science enrichment programs with enhanced in-classroom and virtual mentoring in underserved classrooms through partnerships within our home state, and to further investigate shifts in participants’ attitudes toward science. In pursuing these objectives, we aim to: (1) Determine whether enhanced in-classroom mentoring, paired with virtual mentoring can be used as effective strategies to engage underserved students; (2) Elucidate the underlying mechanism(s) for students’ attitudinal changes towards science with near- peer mentoring; and (3) Evaluate effective strategies for the dissemination and the sustainability of NPM programs. We will partner with minority-serving universities in Maryland, and local high schools in their communities to disseminate the NPM model. We hypothesize that dissemination of this enhanced NPM model will lead to a network of sustainable programs that will promote shifts in students’ classroom performance, attitudes, engagement, and growth mindsets. Our expertise puts us in a unique position to train others in implementation of this model, thus increasing the number of under-represented students who have access to meaningful and preparatory experiences in STEM. We will use a matched comparison group design to evaluate the efficacy of the near-peer mentorship programs for students, and fidelity surveys to evaluate the consistency of program implementation across sites. The dissemination of a sustainable NPM model will help us accomplish our long-term goal of addressing systemic educational inequities, and increase our capacity for recruitment of students from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds into STEM internships, providing an element of continuity for participants. The proposed work will also provide a blueprint for other SEPA programs to disseminate evidence-based outreach programs.

Associated SEPA Project(s)