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Board 229: Can You See Yourself Here? Broadening Participation in STEM through Virtual Reality Career Exploration

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Sarah Lynn Ferguson Rowan University

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Dr. Ferguson is the STEM VRCE project team leader, investigating the magnitude impact of STEM career exploration through the use of virtual reality video. An applied methodologist in education research, Dr. Ferguson focuses on the application of advanced research methods and statistics approaches to issues in education. Currently Dr. Ferguson works as an Associate Professor of Quantitative Methods at Rowan University, teaching education research courses in the College of Education. Prior to this role, Dr. Ferguson was a certified teacher in the state of Texas with certifications in Elementary Education, Middle School Science, and High School Science.

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Christopher J Winkler Rowan University

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Kara P. Ieva

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Marjorie Blicharz Rowan University

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Theresa E. Cann

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Ashley Elmes

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Research on the challenges of increasing participation in STEM for underrepresented groups is well founded, and these challenges are augmented in rural school districts [1]. Approximately 20% of all students in the US are in rural districts, which often lack access and funding for special projects and programs such as career exploration and advanced courses [1, 2, 3]. STEM technician and technologist careers in particular can often be accessible options for students in rural areas; however, many students are not aware of these career options and have limited access or resources to explore these careers through the current school-based career guidance programs, particularly in rural communities [4, 5].

There have been numerous calls for more STEM specific career exploration and advising to meet the needs of the modern workforce [4, 6]. [Blinded Project] is a NSF Broadening Participation EHR Core project that offers a novel approach to address the need for more accessible career exploration using virtual reality 360 videos. For the first implementation year, a research study was conducted with three partner high schools classified as rural. Each school recruited 11th grade students to participate, who were then randomly assigned to treatment (n = 59) or control conditions (n = 32).

Significant effects for the treatment group were found on the outcome measures of science motivation (F(1, 63) = 5.72, p = 0.02, partial η2 = 0.08), and significant growth over time was found for both career knowledge for the target career of surveying and mapping engineering technicians (F(2, 63) = 7.12, p = 0.002, partial η2 = 0.20) and career decision-making self-efficacy (F(2, 63) = 15.94, p<0.001, partial η2 = 0.34). Initial results support the positive impact [Blinded Project] can have on high school students’ science interest and career exploration in science and engineering careers. Based on the results of this project, there is significant potential to scale up the [Blinded Project] implementation and expand the available modules to support career exploration and advising around multiple STEM career clusters, providing a new avenue for career exploration programming.

1 S. Provasnik, et al. “Status of education in rural America”. US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, 2007. 2 D. J. Gagnon and M.J. Mattingly. "State policy responses to ensuring excellent educators in rural schools." Journal of Research in Rural Education, Vol 30.13, pp. 1-14, 2015. 3 B.C. Hutchins and P. Akos. "Rural high school youth's access to and use of school-to-work programs." The Career Development Quarterly, Vol 61.3, pp. 210-225, 2013. 4 A. Byars-Winston. "Toward a framework for multicultural STEM-focused career interventions." The Career Development Quarterly, Vol 62.4, pp. 340-357, 2014. 5 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Building America's skilled technical workforce. National Academies Press, 2017. 6 B.J. Casad, et al. "Wise psychological interventions to improve gender and racial equality in STEM." Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, Vol 21.5, pp. 767-787, 2018.

Ferguson, S. L., & Winkler, C. J., & Ieva, K. P., & Blicharz, M., & Cann, T. E., & Elmes, A. (2023, June), Board 229: Can You See Yourself Here? Broadening Participation in STEM through Virtual Reality Career Exploration Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42667

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