The new STEM Educational Research Initiative takes a comprehensive approach to understanding Idaho’s STEM educational outcomes. Specifically, the research design explores how cultural, socio-economic, and rural and urban factors shape students' interest and experience in science, technology, engineering, and math.
“The Micron Foundation is committed to helping our youth see how STEM plays a role in their everyday life and can be part of their future,” said Micron Foundation Executive Director Dee Mooney. “As a co-sponsor of the University of Idaho’s research initiative, we look forward to learning more about the way in which our communities can improve student experiences in STEM education to ultimately increase their success.”
The University of Idaho already provides leadership in several collaborative STEM-focused programs, including the McCall Outdoor Science School, the annual Engineering Design EXPO, and the University’s partnership with Boise State and Idaho State universities in the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). These existing programs, and others to be developed in partnership with other stakeholders, will engage students and citizens in various ways to promote STEM learning and literacy.
“We are pleased to have the Micron Foundation’s support for the first stages of this important program,” said Jack McIver, University of Idaho’s Vice President for Research and Economic Development. “The state will benefit greatly from this critical initiative that anticipates the creation of a STEM-literate population in Idaho.”
The University of Idaho’s Colleges will collaborate and draw upon their strengths and expertise to achieve the initiative goals. Cross-disciplinary consultation for this research project is taking place across different University of Idaho colleges, including the College of Education, the College of Engineering, the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, and the College of Sciences. Research design, instrument preparation, data collection and analysis are implemented by researchers in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and researchers in the University of Idaho Social Science Research Unit, which is housed in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“The STEM initiative and the privilege of working with the multidisciplinary team are really energizing to me,” said Jim Gregson, Associate Dean of the College of Education. “The Micron Foundation funding enables us to identify and better understand, in a sophisticated way, the complex root problems associated with STEM education, rather than focus on the related symptoms.”
Gregson said that while numerous STEM initiatives have emerged across the nation, this initiative is distinctive “because it recognizes that the social, cultural, and economic context in which STEM is situated has an impact on the extent to which these disciplines are valued, taught, learned, and practiced.”
The Micron STEM Education Research Initiative has some distinctive elements that will help it effect changes—in attitudes, learning and outcomes-- in how science, technology, engineering and math are perceived, experienced, taught and learned. The multi-year initiative includes:
- Conducting focus groups and interviews with citizens, teachers, parents, and school administrators to identify community-specific factors that shape attitudes toward STEM disciplines and how those attitudes impact student academic success;
- Conducting statewide and community-specific telephone surveys to measure attitudes about STEM education and family and community influences on educational experiences.
- Conducting in-class surveys with students and phone surveys with students’ parents in each selected community;
- Conducting a statewide survey of teachers;
- Sharing research findings with multiple stakeholders to support collaborative STEM innovations in Idaho.
“To us, success will mean not only producing trustworthy findings from this research initiative, but also having this research shape and inform future statewide STEM initiatives,” added Gregson.