The proposed project uses a comprehensive mixed methods design to develop theoretically-grounded measures of student engagement in middle school math and science classes that reflect a multidimensional construct within an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of urban youth. The project conceptualizes student engagement as a multidimensional construct including behavioral, emotional, and cognitive components. This multidimensional perspective of student engagement provides a rich characterization of how students act, feel, and think. The project has three aims which are to 1) develop reliable and valid measures of student engagement in middle school math and science classes for the use of teachers and researchers; 2) field test and validate these measures of student engagement in math and science classes; and 3) test a) whether classroom, peer, and family characteristics predict student engagement in math and science classes, which in turn, predicts their course enrollment patterns, academic achievement, and educational and career aspirations in math and science and b) whether these associations differ by gender, race, and socioeconomic status.
To meet these goals, the proposed project includes two studies. In study 1, twenty-five middle school students and 10 math and 10 science teachers participate in focus groups and individual interviews to inform the development of survey instruments in fulfillment of Aim 1. In study 2, 450 middle school students and their teachers and parents participate in a field study to test the psychometric quality of the newly developed instruments in fulfillment of Aims 2 and 3. The sample is recruited from four middle schools located in a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse community. Data to be collected includes information on math and science course enrollment, performance, educational and career aspirations, student engagement in math and science, and support from teachers, peers, and parents.
This project develops easily-administered and psychometrically sound instruments for teachers and researchers to assess student engagement in math and science classes, so they can identify groups of students who are at risk for disengagement and potentially turning away from STEM careers as a first step towards designing appropriate school interventions. It is anticipated that the project findings provide research-based solutions to some of the specific behaviors that influence youth motivation in math and science. Specifically, the project identifies family, peer, and classroom predictors and educational outcomes of student engagement in math and science classes that are amenable to future interventions, as well as examines differences in the relations between context, engagement, and educational outcomes by gender, race, and socioeconomic status. The study also yields information that can directly and immediately support teachers in the partner school districts to enhance the quality of math and science education. As findings are disseminated to math and science teachers, they are able to develop effective strategies to promote student engagement in math and science. This multidimensional approach will advance current scholarship and practice concerning middle school students' pursuit of math and science related fields.