Collaborative Research: Investigating a Nested Mentoring Model Designed to Support STEM Skill and Identity Development for Middle School Youth, Scient

Project: Research project

Project Details


Overview Mentoring is a widely-accepted strategy for supporting youth development across a variety of sectors including education, workforce development, and the justice system. Mentoring relationships are quite distinct from those formed in conventional instructional or short-term engagements; as such, they necessitate discrete programmatic and assessment approaches. However, there is broad concern that practice has outpaced theory and empirical testing, with numerous calls for additional research on important modifiers of mentoring relationships and the role that mentoring can play within professional networks of educators. This is especially true for the specific area of K-12 STEM mentoring. In particular, there is a pressing need to identify and study highly successful programs (e.g. outcomes with large effect sizes) to better understand the role of mentoring and moderators of mentoring effectiveness in these programs. This proposal is centered on an innovative, community-based STEM mentoring program – Science Club - for middle-grade youth in the Chicago area. This established program is grounded in strategic and operational collaborations between a private research university, a large, urban, public school district, and a historic community-based organization. We describe an innovative and comprehensive approach designed to address two central issues we have identified in the specific research and practice landscape of K-12 STEM mentoring: 1) the persistent research gap in K-12 STEM mentoring and the modifiers of effective relationships on both youth and STEM mentors; and 2) the lack of rigorously-developed and assessed models of STEM mentoring collaborations poised for regional and national dissemination. Intellectual Merit We have designed a project plan that will build upon prior evaluation findings of Science Club and apply a mentoring framework to investigate which elements of the mentoring relationships mediate the demonstrated skills and identity gains in youth participants. Further, our work will contribute much-needed data on the impact of STEM mentoring relationships on the mentors themselves. This work will also produce programmatic deliverables that will enable immediate local scale-up of the program and future replication on a regional and national level. Ultimately, the project will address key gaps in STEM mentoring theory and practice, provide key insights on the skills and attitudinal shifts experienced by both youth and mentors, and investigate the role that organization-level network mentoring plays in the context of a successful partnership between schools, after-school, and higher education. This proposal will critical gaps in the research-informed understanding of middle school mentoring through novel, empirical research. In addition to providing a deeper understanding of the effective components of a nested mentoring program and how those elements contribute to long-term skills and identity gains. This will have a strategic impact in the OST sector by validating an innovative model of middle school STEM mentoring and providing programmatic frameworks to inform program evolution in new communities. Building on the current literature and practice, our work will inform our own practice and enhance knowledge- building in the field on both interpersonal mentoring relationships and the collective impact of university-school-afterschool partnerships. Key deliverables of the project include a middle school STEM mentoring guide for practitioners that will promote innovation in afterschool STEM learnin
Effective start/end date9/1/198/31/24


  • National Science Foundation (DRL-1906971-004)


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