Exploring the role purpose-related experiences can play in supporting interest development in STEM
Naftzger, Neil J.
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The focus of this study was to explore how select practices and approaches with a self-transcendent orientation delivered in STEM-oriented summer learning programs serving middle-school aged youth were related to both (a) in-the-moment experiences that over time are believed to be related to possible continued engagement and interest in STEM and (b) changes in STEM-related youth outcomes during the span of the program. Using data obtained from surveys collected using the experience sampling method, activity leader interviews, video footage of programing, and pre-post youth surveys, a series of multilevel models were constructed to assess how activity leader practices that put youth in the position of considering the needs or concerns of others or undertaking work that was beneficial to a larger cause or purpose beyond themselves were related to in-the-moment experiences and changes in STEM-related outcomes. Key study findings suggested that providing youth with self-transcendent supports and opportunities resulted in youth feeling that what they were doing was important and that these feelings over the span of the program were associated with growth in STEM interest, self-concept, perceptions of value, and aspirations.