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Looking for Learning in After-School Spaces

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Secondary (6-12) Outreach

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.876.1 - 23.876.17



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Paper Authors


Christine Schnittka Auburn University

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Dr. Schnittka is a mechanical engineer-turned middle school teacher-turned faculty member in science education at Auburn University where she develops, teaches, and researches innovative engineering design-based curriculum.

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Michael A Evans Virginia Tech

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Dr. Michael A. Evans is Associate Professor and Program Area Leader in Instructional Design and Technology in the Department of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Virginia Tech. He received a B.A. and M.A. in Psychology from the University of West Florida and a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University. His work focuses on the effects of multimedia methods and technologies on instruction and learning. Current research focuses on the design, development, and evaluation of instructional multimedia for interactive surfaces (personal media devices, smart phones, tablets, tables, and whiteboards) to support collaborative learning as well as the adoption of video game elements for instructional design, particularly for informal settings. Currently, he is Principal Investigator on two current NSF-sponsored projects. The GAMES Project (DRL 1118571) proposes to develop serious mathematical games for tablets and other mobile devices, focusing on pre-algebra readiness and states of engagement. The Studio STEM Project (DRL 1029756) proposes to engage middle school students in science and engineering in an after school setting. Guided by engineering teaching kits, participants work with undergraduate mentors to explore the science of energy as they build-test-rebuild dwellings to protect penguins from climate change. Dr. Evans teaches graduate courses in the learning sciences and interactive media design and development. He has published in Educational Technology Research and Development, the International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, and the Journal of Educational Computing Research. More information on projects can be found at the GAMES and Studio STEM websites.

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Tiffany Drape Virginia Tech

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Samantha Gwai Lan Won Virginia Tech

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Looking for Learning in After School SpacesThe structured after-school space has long demonstrated educational benefits (Gerber, Cavallo,& Marek, 2001; Tamir, 1990). After-school settings typically provide homework support,helping students build self-confidence (Beck, 1999). They are safe places for socializing andforming relationships with caring adults (Payton et al., 2008). However, there is a lack ofresearch on determining what academics students might learn in after-school settings without thetesting rigor of in-school classrooms. When the after-school curriculum encompassesengineering design, the challenge is greater due to the difficulty in assessing intangibles such asdesign and deep conceptual knowledge. In this study we designed an after-school experience in astudio setting, using research-validated engineering design-based curriculum (Author, 2009;2010; 2012) and gave the youth different opportunities and methods to demonstrate what theylearned through the process. In this study we examined three after-school settings for 8 weeksand looked at storyboarding, blogging on a social network site, videotaped conversations withvolunteer facilitators, presentations the youth made at the end of the program, and structuredinterviews to look for evidence of learning in after-school spaces.Using a discursive psychology framework (Davies & Harré, 2000) we identify ways in which thefacilitators’ words and actions helped students’ problem-solving abilities and conceptualunderstanding. Findings suggest that the elicitation strategies adopted by facilitators had asignificant impact on the ways that the youth were able to engage in the design process and toconstruct new conceptual knowledge. Throughout the course of the after school program,students moved from making general statements on the social networking site to makingconcrete suggestions to other participants, offering feedback, and having authentic conversationsabout their project.Findings indicate that the relaxed freedom youth experienced in a setting after the school daywas over was indeed conducive to learning. When mediated by the support of adult volunteerfacilitators who bounce ideas, focus excess energy, and challenge the youth to think deeply, thisimpact was even greater. Students in the studio settings were able to apply the new knowledgethey gained to engineering design activities, and demonstrated that knowledge through discourse,chatting online, drawing, and presenting in ways not normally accomplished in the school-dayclassroom. This study has implications for how STEM programs can be integrated after schoolto reinforce school curriculum while providing safe, secure, social outlets for developing youth.ReferencesAuthor, 2009.Author, 2010.Author, 2012.Gerber, B.L., Cavallo, A.M.L., & Marek, E.A. (2001). Relationships among informal learning environments, teaching procedure and scientific reasoning. International Journal of Science Education, 23(5), 535-549.Tamir, P. (1990). Factors associated with the relationship between formal, informal, and nonformal science learning. Journal of Environmental Education, 22, 34-42.Beck, E. L. (1999). Prevention and intervention programming: Lessons from an after-school program. Urban Review, 31(1), 107–124.Payton, J. et al. (2008). The positive impact of social and emotional learning for kindergarten to eighth-grade students: Findings from three scientific reviews. Chicago, IL: Collaborative writing 1990-1999, B. Davies (Ed.), 87-106. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press. for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.Davies, B., and Harré, R. (2000). Positioning: The discursive production of selves. In A body of

Schnittka, C., & Evans, M. A., & Drape, T., & Won, S. G. L. (2013, June), Looking for Learning in After-School Spaces Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22261

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