- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 2140288
- First Name Stamatis
- Last Name Vokos
- Discipline Chemistry, Computer Science, Data Science, Engineering, Geosciences, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Other, Physics, STEM Education (general)
Matt Beekman, California Polytechnic State University; Catherine Good, Baruch College, CUNY
Emily Jackson-Osagie and Luria Young, Southern University and A&M College; Sanlyn Buxner, University of Arizona; Divya Sitaraman, CSU East Bay; Jessica Black, Heritage University; Kaylene Wakeman, Matt Beekman, and Stamatis Vokos, California Polytechnic State University; Catherine Good, Baruch College CUNY
In the U.S., STEM ability is unfortunately often viewed as something that one is either born with or not (Williams & King, 1980). This fixed mindset “culture of talent” can convey exclusionary messages which create barriers to participation for women and underrepresented groups. This project seeks to produce new knowledge on how teachers’ mindsets about STEM (intelligence, belonging) and their conceptions about the nature of STEM research itself (struggle, productive failure) may be positively and productively influenced, with the aim to produce excellent teachers while promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in STEM.
This project is responsive to the need for “more studies that 1) purposefully target a diverse participant sample and 2) rigorously collect, analyze, and report data that reflect outcomes that may be unique for women and underrepresented groups. Such studies will lead to increasingly better understanding of new approaches to undergraduate and teacher course [sic] and programs that result in enhanced representation in STEM fields.” (Krim et al., 2019) Building on our existing research agenda that documents the effects of our program on the personal intelligence beliefs of its participants, we are exploring an expanded set of research questions that are specifically designed to help the nation better understand the degree to which programs like STAR do (or do not) confer the same benefits to future teachers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as well as from Hispanic- and Native-Serving Institutions, as it does on other participants.
This project aims to answer several questions, such as: (i) Do people hold different conceptions of STEM—one that is representative of the traditional way science is presented in the classroom (“School-View”) versus one that is representative of the way STEM researchers think of their profession (“Researcher-View”)? (ii) Does depth of participation in STAR lead to a stronger endorsement of a Researcher-View of STEM, the development of hardy psycho-social mindsets, such as growth mindset, belonging, and dual-identity as a STEM teacher-researcher, and ultimately the endorsement of productive pedagogical practices that support student learning, such as normalizing mistake-making, endorsement of learning goals rather than performance goals for their classroom, emphasizing effort and engagement, encouraging productive approaches to studying, and maintaining opportunities to work on high-quality, challenging problems? (iii) Does the specified model differ for participants from the newly-added STAR sites (CSU East Bay, Southern University and A&M College, Heritage University) compared to the established STAR sites. Note, if there is variation in the availability of in- person programs (STAR workshops and research internships) versus on-line experiences, we will conduct model invariance testing if there are differences across modes of participation, too.
Participation in STAR provides our fellows with opportunities to experience authentic STEM research and may shift fellows’ conceptions of STEM towards a researcher view rather than a traditional school view. It also encourages fellows to develop an identity that not only incorporates “STEM teacher,” but also “STEM researcher.” STAR workshops and internships provide meaningful opportunities to view STEM and STEM research as a skill to be developed through hard work and effort rather than as a fixed trait, and to experience the process of doing science research as one that involves making mistakes and persevering (productive failure).
Inspired by related work in the mathematics education community, we are developing and validating a new Disciplinary Nature of STEM scale (Researcher vs Traditional-School View of STEM) and will be testing the relationships among participation in STAR, teachers’ views of STEM, mindsets about STEM intelligence, belonging, and identity, and endorsement of adaptive pedagogical practices using a combination of interviews, interventions, surveys, prompts, activities in our summer workshops, and measures of the depth of involvement in the program.
We predict that greater participation in STAR will predict a stronger “Researcher” View of STEM, which in turn will predict various adaptive teacher mindsets, including a stronger growth mindset about STEM intelligence, stronger sense of belonging to the STEM domain, and stronger dual teacher-researcher identities. We predict that these teacher mindsets in turn will predict higher endorsement of adaptive pedagogical practices, such as normalizing mistake-making, endorsement of mastery goals, and endorsement of learning strategies that can improve learning outcomes rather than comfort strategies designed to boost the self-esteem of low-performing students. Importantly, we expect the outcomes of our research can show that by engaging teachers actively in the practice of research through programs such as STAR, STEM teachers can develop their own conceptions of the nature of STEM as a discipline in ways that may ultimately support more effective and inclusive classroom instruction. Because past research has implicated the culture of talent in STEM and teacher mindsets as culprits in maintaining the status quo, this research has the potential to change the equity equation in STEM, leading to a more diverse and just field.
Since 2007, STAR has served more than 600 aspiring and early career participants (corresponding to more than 0.5% of all 100Kin10 teachers) in more than 800 research placements in more than 40 cooperating research settings (including national labs funded by NSF, NASA, DoE, DoD, NOAA, and USGS, as well as university laboratories and R&D settings). STAR alumni have come from 22 CSU campuses and 94 Noyce programs, and have impacted more than 200,000 pre-college students. About 90% aspired to become secondary teachers, and the rest, elementary specialists. The expected 120 placements in the next three years represent a 15% increase in the number of STAR opportunities provided to the nation’s novice STEM teachers, who will in turn use our psycho-social interventions to help their own students overcome social threats to learning and involve them in arguably the most authentic disciplinary practices envisioned by the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics, namely those associated with research. By doing so, we will increase the nation’s capacity to provide research opportunities to future STEM teachers from communities that have been historically excluded on the basis of race, ethnicity, family income, and more recently, in the name of “meritocracy” and “STEM rigor.”