Wednesday, January 30, 2013

STEM Outcomes for Youth in Afterschool Programs

The Afterschool Alliance recently concluded a 10-month study, "Defining Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool." In the study, a panel of expert afterschool providers and supporters were asked to identify appropriate and feasible outcomes for STEM education in afterschool settings.

Coalition Director Carol Tang and Steering Committee member Gabe Lyon of Project Exploration served on the advisory board for this report.

Watch Anita Krishnamurthi, director of STEM policy for the Afterschool Alliance discuss the report, joined by Ron Ottinger, executive director of the Noyce Foundation, and Mark Greenlaw, VP for sustainability and education affairs at Cognizant.

The big picture consensus among panel experts interviewed is that afterschool programs support young people to:

  • enjoy STEM learning
  • feel capable learning STEM
  • want to do more STEM learning

There are a number of more concrete indicators that afterschool professionals can look for to see if young people demonstrate progress towards those outcomes.  Panel experts ranked these in order of what they felt afterschool programs are best positioned to accomplish.  They reported that afterschool is best positioned to support young people's:

  1. Active participation in STEM learning opportunities
  2. Curiosity about STEM topics, concepts or practices
  3. Ability to productively engage in STEM processes of investigation
  4. Awareness of STEM professions
  5. Ability to exercise STEM-relevant life and career skills
  6. Understanding the value of STEM in society
One of the implications of the report is that afterschool is well positioned to support the 'doing' science and STEM.  Another implication of the study is that afterschool is well positioned to support realistic scenarios of how science is actually performed in the field, as afterschool is a learning environment suited for collaborative group work and other 21st century skills.

Panelists were also asked if they believed there are assessment tools to document the kinds of impacts they felt confident delivering.  While the funder group reported that yes, assessment tools are available, the practitioner group reported no, they don't have access to assessment tools.  In the video above, Anita offers a possible explanation of this result which is that practitioners may be aware of assessment tools for STEM in afterschool, but those tools may not be effective for one reason or another.

This report offers a great foundation for further conversation about outcomes of STEM learning in afterschool and we look forward to hearing what you think!

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