STEM Interest

With the rhetoric around STEM education often focused on how to get more individuals interested in STEM fields, it seems that making is positioned to play a key role in getting more youth into STEM. Through data we collected as part of a separate project (Maltese, Simpson & Anderson, 2018) and anecdotal conservations with maker educators, many feel that making activities can engage youth in thinking about STEM that is different from the ways they traditionally engage with these topics. ​

In the realm of interest, this work builds off of extensive work our group has done in investigating science or STEM interest and career intentions (e.g., Maltese and others, 2011, 2014, 2017). Additionally we incorporated items from Activation Lab surveys (e.g., Chen, Cannady, Schunn & Dorph, 2017). With regard to career intention and awareness, we have had to modify existing tools in a significant way in order for them to fit our intentions here. We are taking both a blunt approach (i.e., asking directly about career intentions) and a more subtle approach (i.e., asking about preferences among a set of employment tasks). We feel that these approaches, collectively, can yield useful information on this construct. We have modified career surveys targeted at adolescents or adults for this purpose (e.g., Liao, Armstrong, & Rounds, 2008), which sometimes required modification of language to make age appropriate. ​

When looking at these development of interest and career intentions, it also makes sense to consider how engagement in making practices might influence a youth’s identity development. We started by taking an engineering identify scale that was used with elementary students and subjected to confirmatory factor analysis (Capobianco et al., 2012). However, when we used this survey with elementary students we found that the 3-point response options did not yield results with desired variance. Our first revision involved using the 4-point response options from the Activation Lab (YES! yes no NO!). This yielded greater variance in responses. However, the tool did not include any items related to recognition – based on discussions with experts, we created a set of items that seek to collect recognition data from respondents.

We are currently working to revise the instrument to be specific to making. To date, we have yet to deploy this instrument in a makerspace context. We are also in the process of thinking through what other non-survey measures might yield data on interest and identity in making contexts with youth.