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Action Research Revelations: The Challenges and Promises of Implementing Informal STEM Experiences in K-12 School Settings (Work in Progress, Diversity)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Amari T. Simpson University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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Amari T. Simpson is a third-year Ph.D. student at the College of Education at the University of Illinois. He has worked as a STEM educator in Boston for two years, and his research interest centers on STEM pre-college program effects on students. He currently serves as a Research Assistant in the College of Engineering. He received a Bachelor's degree in psychology from Middlebury College and a Master's degree in curriculum and teaching in science education from Boston University.

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Lara Hebert University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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Serves as the Outreach and Public Engagement Coordinator for The Grainger College of Engineering. She brings to this position and this initiative expertise in teacher education and curriculum design.

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Luisa-maria Rosu University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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Luisa-Maria Rosu is the Director of I-STEM (Illinois Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) Education Initiative and a Research Associate in the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. A former mathematics teacher, elementary through college, her interests evolved from teachers’ professional knowledge and continuing education to the quality of teaching and the evaluation of STEM programs in higher education.

In 2014, she received a CORE Early Career Fulbright U.S. scholar award for the proposal Investigations of Quality Criteria in STEM Teacher Education and in 2016, she received the YWCA leadership award for STEM education.

Luisa received her Ph.D. in Continuing Teacher Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010. She also holds an M.A in Applied Mathematics from the University of Southern California (2000) and an M.S. in Real and Complex Analysis from the University of Bucharest, Romania (1996).

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Meagan C. Pollock Engineer Inclusion

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Dr. Meagan Pollock envisions a world where personal and social circumstances are not obstacles to achieving potential, and where kindness, inclusivity, and conservation prevail. As an engineer turned educator for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Meagan focuses on engineering equity into education and the workforce. An international speaker, teacher, engineer, and equity leader, her mission is to provide services, tools, and resources that inspire awareness and initiate action. Learn more at

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Lynford Goddard University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

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[removed for submission] is a multi-year, multi-pronged project funded by the [removed for submission review]. We worked with K-12 school educators to improve their understanding and promote practices that purposely influence students’ science, engineering, technology, and mathematics (STEM) interests and career trajectory. We also supported creating and implementing out-of-school STEM clubs that offer students inquiry-driven engineering design and other hands-on STEM experiences throughout the school year. As part of our larger project goals, we tasked a networked community of middle/high school teachers, counselors, and administrators to develop action research projects to improve STEM equity within their schools. We provide initial findings on school educators’ experiences and perspectives implementing informal STEM learning within their schools through initial coding and analysis of document materials and transcripts. These materials reveal how unique school characteristics (i.e., support from multiple school educators, clear STEM club leadership roles, and intentional recruitment strategies) hinder or aid in successfully implementing informal STEM learning opportunities. With the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding, some school educators revealed the difficulty of setting up and transitioning their STEM club to a virtual format. Other school educators also remarked how shifts in their educator mindsets from our CISTEME365 STEM equity content led to reimagined instructional strategies that supported their students’ STEM interests and awareness. Our study highlights the power of action research and a community of practice for implementing school-based, informal STEM opportunities. By exposing school educators to a broader set of STEM career pathways, emphasizing the field of engineering, our work aims to promote a pluralistic understanding of STEM career pathways for both K-12 educators and students. This material is based upon work supported by the [removed for submission review] under [removed for submission review].

Simpson, A. T., & Hebert, L., & Rosu, L., & Pollock, M. C., & Goddard, L. (2021, July), Action Research Revelations: The Challenges and Promises of Implementing Informal STEM Experiences in K-12 School Settings (Work in Progress, Diversity) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36642

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