ECR Projects

Explore past and current fundamental STEM education research projects across the three research areas that NSF's EDU Core Research (ECR) program funds, as well as across ECR funding types. Other search filters draw from both NSF's data and the ECR Hub's hand coding of award abstracts.

Ninth-grade biology students create cell models using clay.

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Studying the Malleability and Impact of Science Learning Activation

Effective Years: 2014-2019

This project, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California, Berkeley, seeks to discover what makes middle school students engaged in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The researchers have developed a concept known as science learning activation, including dispositions, practices, and knowledge leading to successful STEM learning and engagement. The project is intended to develop and validate a method of measuring science learning activation.

The first stage of the project involves developing the questions to measure science activation, with up to 300 8th graders participating. The second stage is a 16-month longitudinal study of approximately 500 6th and 8th graders, examining how science learning activation changes over time. The key question is what are the influencers on science activation, e.g., student background, classroom activities, and outside activities.

This project addresses important past research showing that middle school interest in STEM is predictive of actually completing a STEM degree, suggesting that experiences in middle school and even earlier may be crucial to developing interest in STEM. This research goes beyond past work to find out what are the factors leading to STEM interest in middle school.

This work helps the Education and Human Resources directorate, and the Division of Research on Learning, pursue the mission of supporting STEM education research. In particular, this project focuses on improving STEM learning, as well as broadening participation in STEM education and ultimately the STEM workforce.