At CURes, the motivation behind our educational research is our concern about the state of Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education and the STEM labor force in the U.S. In particular, there are low levels of student interest in STEM study and careers and, simultaneously, insufficient numbers of appropriately trained professionals to meet the needs of the rapidly growing STEM labor market. Additionally, the STEM industry suffers from a lack of racial, ethnic and gender diversity. This lack of diversity unjustly excludes traditionally underserved populations from fruitful careers in industry and potentially limits the resilience and innovation of the STEM industry. To address these concerns, the research staff at CURes conduct research on developing STEM interest amongst kindergarten through high school students, particularly those from traditionally underserved populations. CURes research efforts also focus on developing curricula and instructional resources that support experiential and interdisciplinary scientific inquiry coupled with profession development for urban educators.
Recent research projects include:
Informal STEM Education & Social Justice Pedagogy
Educational research in this area has focused on examining the impact of informal STEM interventions, often in the form of culturally-relevant, community-based investigations and community enhancement projects, on stimulating and sustaining interest in STEM amongst underrepresented racial and ethnic minority students. Students have been involved in mapping 3D biophysical and social data of vacant neighborhood lots, including temperature and sound, as well as profiling neighborhood resources and amenities. The students then have used these data to inform urban development plans, including urban greening efforts and strategic placement of grocery stores.
STEM Career Development
Educational research in this area has focused on understanding the complex processes involved in developing and sustaining STEM career interests amongst underrepresented racial and ethnic minority students. These research efforts have been informed by interdisciplinary theoretical lens from education and career fields.
STEM Teacher Professional Development
CURes leads ongoing teacher workshops structured around urban ecology and environmental education. This work is aimed at improving teacher content knowledge and self-efficacy as means to enhancing teacher effectiveness in science education, particularly with and for historically underserved student populations.
STEM Curriculum Development and Evaluation
This work has involved the evaluation of the impact of an existing high school urban ecology curriculum (Urban EcoLab Curriculum) in classrooms across multiple subjects. Additional educational research efforts have been focused on contributing to the existing Urban EcoLab Curriculum by developing and evaluating additional high school urban ecology curriculum materials, particularly one module focused on urban farming and food resources.