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Developmentally Appropriate Strategies for Targeting EarlyAdolescents’ Motivation in STEM

Project Team: PI-DeLeon Gray  Co-PI-Lauren Bryant Co-PI-Braska Williams  Mary Ann Wolf 

Sponsor: National Science Foundation

Project Total: $1,011,821


The overarching goal of the 3-year project is to develop a coherent set of instructional practices for teachers and community stakeholders that target motivational needs specific to economically disadvantaged adolescents in predominantly African American middle schools in Durham, NC. This project is distinctive in that this work will help teachers, and engineers, and caregivers to unpack the concept of achievement motivation, thereby equipping them with strategies that are essential for discussing and intervening on specific aspects of motivation particularly relevant to early adolescents. Students will be empowered to substantively contribute to the improvement of the social and physical conditions in which they live by collaborating on meaningful projects that speak to issues they have identified within their own communities. Students will develop a sense of belonging within afterschool environments that support the development of mastery goals, a sense of autonomy and competence, and a view of STEM learning as meaningful and worthwhile.

Outcomes and products from this project will include: (1) a conceptual model for guiding teachers in using motivation data to improve their instructional effectiveness; and (2) an array of theoretically driven pedagogical techniques that will benefit teachers, engineers, and caregivers seeking to support the motivation of students of color during computer and electrical engineering activities. As part of a broader dissemination plan, The SMART Collaborative will contextualize the findings of this project during a convening designed to help community stakeholders overcome barriers to implementing motivationally supportive practices that tailored to meet early adolescents’ motivation needs—needs that differ profoundly based on cognitive, social, and physical maturation levels particular to this age group.