The Influence of MESA Activities on Underrepresented Students

The Math, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) outreach programs are partnerships between K-12 schools and higher education that for over forty years introduce science, mathematics and engineering to students traditionally underrepresented in the discipline. This project examines the influences MESA activities (field trips, guest lecturers, design competitions, hands-on activities and student career and academic advisement) have on students' perception of engineering, their self-efficacy and interest in engineering, and their subsequent decisions to pursue careers in engineering.

Full Description: 

The Math, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) outreach programs are partnerships between K-12 schools and higher education in eight states that for over forty years introduce science, mathematics and engineering to K-12 students traditionally underrepresented in the discipline. This exploratory study examines the influences that those MESA activities have on students' perception of engineering and their self-efficacy and interest in engineering and their subsequent decisions to pursue careers in engineering. The MESA activities to be studied include field trips, guest lecturers, design competitions, hands-on activities and student career and academic advisement.

About 1200 students selected from 40 MESA sites in California, Maryland and Utah are surveyed with instruments that build on those used in prior studies. Focus groups with a randomly selected subset of the students provide follow-up and probe the influence of the most promising activities. In the first year of the project the instruments, based on existing instruments, are developed and piloted. Data are taken in the second year and analyzed in the third year. A separate evaluation determines that the protocols are reasonable and are being followed.

The results are applicable to a number of organizations with similar aims and provide information for increasing the number of engineers from underrepresented populations. The project also investigates the correlation between student engagement in MESA and academic performance. This project provides insights on activities used in informal settings that can be employed in the classroom practice and instructional materials to further engage students, especially student from underrepresented groups, in the study of STEM.

Project Materials

Title Type Post date
The Influence of MESA Activities on Underrepresented Students Poster 12/22/2010 - 3:08pm