June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
13.572.1 - 13.572.29
Evaluating a Comprehensive Middle School Outreach Program— The Results
In the three years of its existence, the Virginia Demonstration Project, a middle school STEM outreach program supported by the Office of Naval Research, has grown to reach more than 3000 7th and 8th graders in its academic year and summer camp programs, to involve more than 80 science and math teachers in its professional development activities, and to employ the services of nearly 50 Navy scientists and engineers who work side-by-side with the teachers in the classroom as facilitators, mentors, and role models.
This paper describes how, in the context of a comprehensive logic model, comparison-group, pre- and post-testing, and focus group mixed-method (quantitative and qualitative) studies have been used to determine in a statistically significant fashion how the interventions of which this program consists can be tied to the measured achievements. Changes in the skills, knowledge, and attitudes of the teachers and students will be described as well as the influence of this program on changing student attitudes toward possible STEM careers. The human subjects-based research was conducted with the approval of the Institutional Review Board of the College of William & Mary.
The results show that as a result of participating in the program, students have an increased interest in pursuing STEM careers and that they exhibit increased knowledge in and ability to use science and mathematics. Teachers indicate a high level of support for problem-based learning, which is a fundamental component of the program. The results are presented in a form of valuable results and broadly transferable methodologies that will inform a variety of K12 STEM outreach activities.
Many studies have confirmed that America’s educational system is lacking. Listed under the title “Some Worrisome Indicators” in the Executive Summary of the National Academy of Engineering’s Rising Above the Gathering Storm (2005)1, three particularly compelling statements can be found: 1) “Fewer than one-third of US 4th grade and 8th grade students performed at or above a level called “proficient” in mathematics, 2) “US 12th graders recently performed below the international average for 21 countries on a test of general knowledge in mathematics and science,” and 3) “In 1999, only 41% of US 8th grade students received instruction from a mathematics teacher who specialized in mathematics, considerably lower than the international average of 71%.” There is clearly ample room for improvement here.
Segal and Yochelson (2006)2 remind us: “Top-down federal spending alone will not win the race for global leadership in science and technology. It will take a hands-on commitment from all involved in the US innovation enterprise to build world-class talent from the bottom up.”
Matkins, J. J., & McLaughlin, J. A., & Brown, E., & Hardinge, G., & West, N., & Stiegler, R., & Jenne, K. (2008, June), Evaluating A Comprehensive Middle School Outreach Program—The Results Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/4440
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