Crystal City, Virginia
April 29, 2018
April 29, 2018
May 2, 2018
Diversity and Pre K-12 Education
Women’s historical underrepresentation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is evident at all junctures of the pipeline from elementary education to industry. Providing students with STEM experiences is one method of alleviating this gender imbalance and building 21st Century Skills. At Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), outreach programs in robotics tend to be primarily boys. Based on WPI’s success in offering single-gender programming to build self-efficacy, the university added a section of robotics for girls only. To measure outcomes, WPI collaborated with the PEAR Institute: Partnerships in Education and Resilience at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital. Participants in four robotics sections (N=95, 28% girls) were surveyed using a validated reflective assessment at the end of the program. Three sections were mixed-gender and one section was single-gender. Two different female STEM educators taught four sections. The assessment measured science interest, science identity and the four 21st Century Learning Skills; critical thinking, perseverance, relationships with peers and relationships with adults. Participants in the robotics programs experienced statistically significantly gains in science interest and identity. There were no statistically significant differences between the genders or in the single gender section. For the 21st Century Skills, participants had gains across all skills. Females reported a significantly higher increase than males on the relationships with peers’ skill with the percentage of change greater for the girls’ only section. Participants at WPI had significantly higher gains in science interest than the PEAR national database of informal science programs. These results indicate that informal, project-based, collaborative science programs have the potential to affect relationships with adults and peers. Additionally, critical thinking and perseverance are impacted through project-based learning. While not reaching a level of statistical significance, outcomes for the participants in a single gender environment resulted in outcomes that were more positive for girls. These results make a case for further research on single gender informal science experiences.
Sontgerath, S., & Meadows, R. N. (2018, April), A Comparison of Changes in Science Interest and Identity and 21st Century Learning Skills in a Mixed-gender and Single-gender Robotics Program for Elementary/Middle School Youth Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--29506
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