The unprecedented circumstances of the past two years have highlighted the need to better understand and support learner motivation and engagement in STEM education, particularly for underserved, underrepresented, and at-risk student populations. In this month’s Spotlight, we highlight three projects that are currently researching approaches and learning environments that are designed to motivate and engage students in science, computer science, and software engineering, along with information on the larger body of research, innovations, and instrumentation in the DRK-12 portfolio and other related resources.
- Featured Projects
- Internet of Things Pedagogical Ecosystem for Integrated Computer Science and Software Engineering Education for Grades 9-12 (PI: Pramod Abichandani)
- Supporting Students' Science Content Knowledge Through Project-based Inquiry (PBI) Global (PI: Hiller Spires)
- Teacher Professional Learning to Support Student Motivational Competencies During Science Instruction (PIs: Christopher Harris, Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia, Gwen Marchand)
- Additional DRK-12 Research
- Related Resources
Internet of Things Pedagogical Ecosystem for Integrated Computer Science and Software Engineering Education for Grades 9-12
PI: Pramod Abichandani | Co-PI: Prateek Shekhar
STEM Disciplines: Computer Science (CS), Software Engineering (SE), Internet of Things (IoT)
Target Audience: Students and instructors involved in the CS/SE/IoT learning process
Description: With continued advancement in science and technology comes the need to educate K-12 students in emerging technologies to better prepare them for future academic and professional pursuits. This project aims to develop, implement, and evaluate an Internet of Things (IoT) based educational curriculum and technology that provides grade 9-12 students with Computer Science (CS) and Software Engineering (SE) education. The proposed IoT pedagogical ecosystem features an innovative approach to bringing CS and SE education to grades 9-12 by immersing students in the technical challenges of building web-connected, physical computing systems. This project will focus on identifying critical elements for effective instructional design for CS and SE education by understanding student and teacher motivation. A key innovation of this effort will be the low-cost, IoT-hardware kits for project-based learning to create a hands-on experience in the classroom. The curriculum will involve real-world projects inspired by the National Academy of Engineering grand challenges that have direct applications in the industry (e.g., urban infrastructure, wearable technology, connected vehicles, connected health, and cybersecurity).
Instrumentation: Continuous and methodical assessment via rubrics and focus groups are being used for data collection on students' CS/SE/IoT knowledge and skills, teamwork skills, and overall engagement. For the technical assessment, various well-established CS/SE/IoT rubrics are being used. For teamwork, we are using CATME. For overall engagement, we are using the Student Response to Instructional Practices (StRIP) Survey developed by Nguyen et al. (2016).
Rigorous quantitative statistical analysis (parametric and non-parametric) and qualitative methods (first cycle and second cycle coding) are being used to analyze the data.
Key Opportunity/Challenge: We see an opportunity to shine light on the gaps in the current education system and contribute to the evolution of CS/SE education by 1) identifying the skills that instructors need to teach the technical topics of IoT and training them accordingly, 2) using low-cost, IoT-hardware kits for project-based learning to create a hands-on experience in the classroom, and 3) creating curricular modules that can be easily integrated within existing STEM/CS/AP CSA/Engineering classes. This research has the potential to advance the field of CS education by contributing to the definition of computing literacy and education, forming the basis for subsequent research on learning approaches for CS/SE education for grades 9-12, and supplying an open-source, hands-on and project-based curriculum on preparing future generations capable of participating in CS/AI development.
- Publication: MATLABArduino.org: An Open-Source Website and YouTube channel for Embedded Systems Education (IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, 2021)
Supporting Students' Science Content Knowledge Through Project-based Inquiry (PBI) Global
PI: Hiller Spires | Co-PI: Erin Krupa
STEM Disciplines: Interdisciplinary
Grade(s): Middle and secondary
Target Audience: Researchers and practitioners interested in interdisciplinary, globally-relevant inquiry-to-action
Description: PBI Global responds to the need for research-informed, field-tested, and iteratively developed inquiry learning cycles that engage students and educators in analyzing and finding solutions for globally relevant, interdisciplinary STEM challenges. The Supporting Students’ Science Content Knowledge through Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global project focuses on developing 9th grade students’ physical, biological, and environmental science content knowledge and science and engineering practices, as well as their interdisciplinary understandings, through the topic of global water and sanitation. We investigated factors influencing student motivation and engagement, as well as teacher attitudes toward inquiry-based pedagogies. The project uses a Design-Based Research (DBR) (Cobb, et al., 2003) approach to develop and refine instructional materials and teacher professional development for the existing interdisciplinary PBI Global Initiative. A mixed-methods research design explores the effects of the classroom implementation on student and teacher outcomes. The project builds on the existing PBI Global process to develop new curriculum materials to effectively and efficiently provide teachers and students with diverse, complex, and impactful inquiry opportunities.
Instrumentation: In this study, we are interested in the effects of PBI Global on classroom-level engagement. To measure classroom-level engagement and to provide actionable feedback for researchers in improving the PBI Global curriculum, we are utilizing Jones’ (2017) MUSIC Model of Motivation, which measures motivation related to classroom instruction, to survey students and assess their self-reports of recognized factors that influence motivation and engagement: eMpowerment, Usefulness, Success, Interest, and Caring.
Key Opportunity/Challenge: The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a shift in many places to remote and hybrid learning settings. These learning environments require researchers and practitioners to pivot our conceptualization of what learner engagement is and what it could be in this new learning ecology. These environments also underscore the need to connect with learners to better understand what motivates them to learn and to leverage that during instruction, accordingly.
- PGI Global Website
- Teaching Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global in the US during a Pandemic: Lessons Learned (Ireland International Conferene on Education, 2021)
- Supporting Students' Science Content Knowledge Through Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global Within a Rural/Urban School Context in the United States (2nd International Conference on Science Technology and Education, 2021)
- Supporting Students' Science Content Knowledge Through Project-Based (PBI) Global (Global Education Conference, 2019)
Teacher Professional Learning to Support Student Motivational Competencies During Science Instruction
PIs: Christopher Harris, Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia, Gwen Marchand | Co-PIs: Jennifer Schmidt
STEM Disciplines: Physical Science (but applicable to other disciplines)
Grade(s): Middle school
Target Audience: Science teachers
Description: We are working with 7th grade science teachers to co-design a professional learning (PL) experience for middle school science teachers to develop their knowledge and use of instructional supports for student motivation and engagement in their NGSS-aligned science classrooms. The PL is based on five Motivation Design Principles (MDPs) – Belonging, Confidence, Learning Orientation, Autonomy, and Relevance – which are synthesized from decades of research on how to support student motivation. In the PL, teachers learn each of the MDPs through concrete examples and illustrations and then apply them to their own lesson plans. Project-developed tools support teachers through the implementation of the MDPs in their own classrooms. Materials and tools were developed through an iterative feedback cycle in which participating teachers used the materials and provided feedback. Through this collaborative co-design process, we developed a toolkit with concrete examples of how to apply each MDP in numerous contexts, including instruction focused on each science and engineering practice from the Next Generation Science Standards; a library of videos illustrating real-world application of each MDP; quick-reference tools to use when planning; and a web-based interactive version of the toolkit.
Instrumentation: We have developed three survey instruments to measure student motivation and engagement that are composed of existing scales adapted for the project as well as project-developed scales. The pre- and post-surveys are administered to students before and after a unit of instruction in which their teacher implemented what they learned in the PL. The pre-survey measures student motivation and other related constructs. The post-survey contains the same scales as the pre-survey as well as several measures of students’ perceptions of their teacher’s support for student motivation. The third instrument is an end-of-class report, which is a short survey administered to students at the end of 6-12 lessons during the focal unit of instruction. This instrument measures students’ engagement, motivation, perceptions of the lesson, and perceptions of their teacher’s support for student motivation. The project-developed scales are primarily aimed at measuring students’ perceptions of their teacher’s support for student motivation. We developed these scales after piloting already-developed scales in the first round of implementation. These existing scales did not have good psychometric properties in our sample population and did not separate well from several other constructs on the survey instruments. We have just completed data collection using the project-developed scales and do not have any results to report at this point.
The table below describes the scales used in each instrument and the source of that scale.
|Autonomy Need Satisfaction||X||X||Chen et al., 2015|
|Belonging Need Satisfaction||X||X||Furrer & Skinner, 2003|
|Perceived Competence||X||X||Midgley et al., 2000|
|Interest Value||X||X||Conley, 2012|
|Attainment Value||X||X||X||Conley, 2012|
|Utility Value||X||X||X||Conley, 2012|
|Effort Cost||X||X||Perez et al., 2014 and Kosovich et al., 2015|
|Psychological Cost||X||X||Flake et al., 2015|
|Extrinsic Motivation||X||X||Vansteenkiste et al., 2009|
|Mastery Goal Orientation||X||X||Midgley et al., 2000|
|Performance-Approach Goal Orientation||X||X||Midgley et al., 2000|
|Performance-Avoidance Goal Orientation||X||X||Midgley et al., 2000|
|Support for Belonging Among Students||X||X||Project-Developed|
|Support for Belonging with Teacher||X||X||Project-Developed|
|Support for Confidence - Calibration||X||X||Project-Developed|
|Support for Confidence - Clarity||X||X||Project-Developed|
|Support for Confidence - Feedback||X||Project-Developed|
|Support for Confidence - Monitoring||X||X||Project-Developed|
|Support for Confidence - Support||X||Project-Developed|
|Support for Learning Orientation -
Teacher Mastery Goal Support
|X||X||Midgley et al., 2000|
|Teacher Performance-Approach||X||X||Ryan & Patrick, 2001|
|Support for Autonomy - Provision of Choice||X||X||Patall et al., 2018|
|Support for Relevance -
Consideration for Student Interest
|X||X||Patall et al., 2018|
|Support for Relevance -
Rationales Identifying Usefulness,
Importance, and Relevance of Activity
|X||X||Patall et al., 2018|
|Behavioral Engagement||X||X||Schmidt, Rosenberg & Beymer, 2018|
|Cognitive Engagement||X||X||Fredricks et al., 2016|
|Emotional Engagement||X||X||Schmidt, Rosenberg & Beymer, 2018|
|Perceived Learning||X||Middleton & Mdgley, 1997|
|Perceived Challenge/Skill||X||Fredricks et al., 2016|
Methodology: We use design-based research (Design Based Research Collective, 2003), a framework developed as a means to carry out formative research on educational designs with the explicit aim of refining those designs through multiple iterations (Collins, et al., 2004). Drawing on knowledge of teacher change and learning (Guskey, 2002, 2014), we designed an initial professional learning experience centered on the five Motivation Design Principles synthesized by Linnenbrink-Garcia et al. (2016). We then engaged in iterative processes of implementation, data collection, analysis, feedback, and revision in response to the emerging needs of our teachers and their students. Data collected from teachers include pre- and post-PL surveys, videos of classroom practice, lesson reflections, self-assessments of student engagement, and interviews and focus groups. Data collected from students include pre- and post-surveys, end-of-class reports, and an assessment of scientific knowledge-in-use. Our analytic approach includes observational analysis of videos, thematic analysis of teacher surveys and interviews, and statistical modeling of the student data.
Key Opportunity/Challenge: One challenge for supporting learner motivation and engagement is that many educators view motivation as a unitary, static characteristic of students when it is actually multi-faceted and context-dependent. At the same time, researchers struggle to translate motivational theories into useful, approachable practices that teachers can employ in the classroom. A translational, co-design approach to supporting and studying student motivation in classrooms involving both researchers and educators helps to address these underlying challenges. Our project makes a unique contribution to motivation scholarship by investigating the implementation challenges and successes that teachers experience when trying to support student motivation.
- Project Website
- M-Plans Web Toolkit
- Autonomy Webquest Activity
- Publication: Lessons from a Co-Design Team on Supporting Student Motivation in Middle School Science Classrooms (Theory Into Practice, 2021)
Additional DRK-12 Research
We invite you to explore a sample of the other recently awarded and active work that focuses on student motivation and engagement in the DRK-12 portfolio.
- Algebraic Learning and Cognition in Learning Disabled Students (PI: David Geary)
- CAREER: Black Youth Development and Curricular Supports for Robust Identities in Mathematics (PI: Maisie Gholson)
- CAREER: Cultivating Teachers' Epistemic Empathy to Promote Responsive Teaching (PI: Lama Jaber)
- CAREER: Partnering with Teachers and Students to Engage in Mathematical Inquiry about Relevant Social Issues (PI: Kari Kokka)
- Culturally Responsive, Affective-Focused Teaching of Science and Mathematics (PI: Julie Brown)
- Engaging High School Students in Computer Science with Co-Creative Learning Companions (PI: Brian Magerko)
- Improving the Teaching of Genetics in High School to Avoid Instilling Misconceptions About Gender Differences (PIs: Brian Donovan, Catherine Riegle-Crumb)
- Integration of Engineering Design and Life Science: Investigating the Influence of an Intervention on Student Interest and Motivation in STEM Fields (PI: Siddika Guzey)
- Preparing Teachers to Design Tasks to Support, Engage, and Assess Science Learning in Rural Schools (PI: William Penuel)
CADRE's collection of DRK-12 Research and Products also offers a number of resources that address motivation, engagement, and/or other student attitudes and beliefs.
- Ebby PhD, C. B., Hess, B., Pecora, L., & Valerio, J. (2021). “Teaching Them How to Fish”: Learning to Learn and Teach Responsively.
- Louie, J., Stiles, J., Fagan, E., Roy, S., & Chance, B. (2021). Data investigations to further social justice inside and outside of STEM. Connected Science Learning, 3(1).
- Lottero‐Perdue, P. S., & Lachapelle, C. P. (2020). Engineering mindsets and learning outcomes in elementary school. Journal of Engineering Education, 109(4), 640-664.
- Pina, J., Mazur, R., Rudnitsky, A., McGinnis-Cavanaugh, B., Huff, I., Ford, C. M., ... & Ellis, G. W. (2020). Developing Transmedia Engineering Curricula Using Cognitive Tools to Impact Learning and the Development of STEM Identity. In 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access.
- Schenkel, K., & Calabrese Barton, A. (2020). Critical science agency and power hierarchies: Restructuring power within groups to address injustice beyond them. Science Education, 104(3), 500-529.
- Wang, M. T., & Hofkens, T. L. (2020). Beyond classroom academics: A school-wide and multi-contextual perspective on student engagement in school. Adolescent Research Review, 5(4), 419-433.
- Zheng, J., Xing, W., Zhu, G., Chen, G., Zhao, H., & Xie, C. (2020). Profiling self-regulation behaviors in STEM learning of engineering design. Computers & Education, 143, 103669.
- Fredricks, J. A., Parr, A. K., Amemiya, J. L., Wang, M. T., & Brauer, S. (2019). What matters for urban adolescents’ engagement and disengagement in school: A mixed-methods study. Journal of Adolescent Research, 34(5), 491-527.
- Lottero-Perdue, P. S., & Lachapelle, C. P. (2019). Instruments to measure elementary student mindsets about smartness and failure in general and with respect to engineering. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 7(2), 197-214.
- Talbert, E., Hofkens, T., & Wang, M. T. (2019). Does student-centered instruction engage students differently? The moderation effect of student ethnicity. The Journal of Educational Research, 112(3), 327-341.
- Cheng, H., Potvin, G., Khatri, R., Kramer, L. H., Lock, R. M., & Hazari, Z. (2018, July). Examining physics identity development through two high school interventions. In Physics Education Research Conference 2018.
- Williams, D. R., Brule, H., Kelley, S. S., & Skinner, E. A. (2018). Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG): A study of students’ motivation, achievement, and science identity in low-income middle schools. International journal of STEM education, 5(1), 1-14.
- Ball, C., Huang, K. T., Cotten, S. R., Rikard, R. V., & Coleman, L. O. (2016). Invaluable values: An expectancy-value theory analysis of youths’ academic motivations and intentions. Information, Communication & Society, 19(5), 618-638.
In 2012, CADRE partners at Abt Associates produced a Compendium of Research Instruments for STEM Education measuring student outcomes, following a review of instruments, constructs, and methods used to study student outcomes within the DR-K12 portfolio since 2008. It includes assessments measuring variables in the psychosocial domain, including motivation, attitudes, and emotional aspects.
Student Assessments for Outcomes Within the Psychosocial Domain
- Attitudes Assessments
- Emotional Attributes Assessments
- Motivational Attributes Assessments
- Career Identity Assessments
- May 2013 Addendum with Additional Assessments
This compendium of measures is Part 2 of a two part series to provide insight into the measurement tools available to generate efficacy and effectiveness evidence, as well as understand processes relevant to teaching and learning (see Part 1 on teacher outcome assessments).
Other NSF Network Resources
- What is STEM Engagement? Interviews with 12 Researchers (CAISE)
- The Role of STEM Engagement in STEM Learning & Science Communication (CAISE)
- What is STEM Interest? Interviews with 10 Researchers (CAISE)
- The Role of STEM Interest in STEM Learning & Science Communication (CAISE)
- Expertise Connections: Top Things to Know About Motivation & Engagement (CIRCLS)
- Using Embedded Assessment for Increasing Student Motivation & Teacher Engagement (STELAR)
- It Takes a Village: "Using the Concept of "Learning Ecosystems" to Improve STEM Engagement (STEM for All Multiplex)