Exploring the Influence of an Asset-Focused Intervention on Students' Interest, Motivation, and Sense of Belonging in the Life Sciences

This intervention will explore whether technology enhanced professional development will provide third and fifth grade science teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to prepare and inspire students to become more interested and motivated to pursue careers in STEM fields. The professional development will provide teachers with instructional strategies that promote students' relational mattering and sense of belonging that will help retain students in the STEM pipeline.

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This intervention will explore whether technology enhanced professional development will provide third and fifth grade science teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to prepare and inspire students to become more interested and motivated to pursue careers in STEM fields. The professional development will provide teachers with instructional strategies that promote students' relational mattering and sense of belonging that will help retain students in the STEM pipeline. The project will target low-income African-American students from three high need schools in Washington, DC, through engagement in life science lessons with the ultimate goal of increasing students' awareness and interest in STEM. This intervention will offer continuous professional development to promote teachers' use of asset-focused instructional strategies that take into account students' cultural practices, values, and lived experiences evident in the children's home or community environments. Professional development will be offered through face-to-face summer and academic year professional development academies and the Torsh TALENT technology online platform. Both pathways feature ongoing review of instructional and student learning practices, immediate feedback between trainers and teachers, more opportunities for teachers to view and reflect on their craft, and space for virtual life science communal exchange across participating schools.

A mixed methods research design will be used to collect focus group and survey data, as well as conduct classroom observations, to determine if the foreground variables of students' relational mattering, sense of belonging, and engagement are interrelated. Research literature has shown that students' engagement in the learning process is an important predictor of ultimate academic performance outcomes. It is anticipated that the students' socioemotional perceptions should positively relate not only to each other but to student engagement levels as well; hence helping to confirm the academic relevance of such socioemotional considerations. The Student Socioemotional Perception Tool will be modified to assess students' perception changes given their teachers' participation in the professional development intervention. The study of these social emotional factors with elementary age African-American students in high needs school settings has the potential to advance the knowledge of largely unexplored conceptual directions in need of systematic empirical scrutiny. The Talent Quest Model, based on the human capacity framework, is actualized in how teachers elicit and use student assets with regard to lessons, learning activities, and life science subject matter inside classrooms on an everyday basis. Hence, a major outcome will be modifying a developmentally appropriate measurement tool to gauge elementary level students' perspectives on their relational mattering and sense of belonging during life science lessons beyond its early development and pilot stage.

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