Representation in STEM: Program Research

In 2015, the NYC Science Research Mentoring Consortium, in partnership with SRI International, launched a longitudinal research study that will contribute to a broader understanding of the pathways of STEM-interested high school students from underrepresented groups that plan to pursue or complete STEM studies in their post-high school endeavors.  We aim to investigate the ways in which formative authentic science experiences support youth’s persistence in STEM. 

 

The research questions in this study are:

  1. How do youths’ social networks develop through their participation in scientists’ communities of practice?

  2. What is the relationship between features of the communities of practice and youths’ social networks, measures of academic achievement, and youths’ pursuit of a STEM major?

  3. What are the variations in youth pathways in relationship to learner characteristics, composition of social networks, and features of the community of practice?

 

What is exciting about this evaluation is that it will allow us to look at where our scholars are going to college, what they're majoring in, and if they're entering STEM careers while also allowing us to look at the STEM pathways they pursue.

By taking a ‘pathways’ perspective, we address concerns that research examining pursuit of STEM majors often fails to fully account for, such as the multiple contexts, factors and settings at play in youth development, and accurately documenting the complexity and variability of STEM pursuits themselves. 

 

By examining the social networks developed in the program, this study will reveal relational features of persistence that may be particularly critical for underrepresented youth, for whom STEM role models and cultural brokers provide an otherwise unavailable sense of belonging and identity in STEM.

Due to the unique nature of the Consortium we offer STEM research mentoring programs at 17 distinct sites across New York City. This means that we have different institutions with different local contexts while all engage in the same program model of supporting youth to do authentic science research. Thus, this approach of assessing social networks allows us to look across the Consortium's sites to capture similar or distinct youth experiences. Most importantly this will enable us to better understand where barriers and opportunities in STEM exist to build out access in the field.

 

As we generate knowledge, this will not only inform our own practices, but also hundreds of institutions nationally who are in the business of partnering youth alongside scientists to create equal access in STEM.