Kim, H. (2011). Inquiry-based science and technology enrichment program: Green earth enhanced with inquiry and technology. Journal of Science Education & Technology, 20(6), 803-814.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Inquiry-based Science and Technology Enrichment Program (InSTEP)—a week-long, half-day summer science curriculum for female 8th-grade students—on participants’ interest and confidence in studying science.
- The author used a survey to compare students’ attitudes about science before and after participating in InSTEP.
- The author found that among the female 8th-grade students who chose to enroll in InSTEP, interest in science increased, gender stereotypes about science and scientists were undermined, and overall attitudes toward science improved by the end of the program. There were no significant differences in students’ anxiety about taking science courses.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to InSTEP; other factors are likely to have contributed.
Inquiry-based Science and Technology Enrichment Program (InSTEP)
Features of the Intervention
The author developed InSTEP to increase female middle school students’ interest and confidence in studying science. The program consisted of participation in a week-long, half-day program at an urban university during participants’ summer vacations. Female students entering 8th grade were eligible to participate and had to be recommended to the program by a teacher on the basis of their interest in science.
Program time was spent in classroom and laboratory instruction using an inquiry-based curriculum that used environmental science topics and technology to engage students in science. The curriculum focused on air and water quality, human health, and alternative energy, and included information about and assignments on prominent female scientists. The program also integrated technology—including pH meters, thermometers, and Google Earth—into instruction.
Features of the Study
The study was conducted at a large urban university in the Midwest. The author used data from surveys administered on the first and last days of the program to measure changes in participants’ interest and confidence in studying science. Based on responses to an author-designed attitude survey by the 35 students enrolled in the program, the author constructed indices gauging students’ level of comfort discussing science or participating in science class, their beliefs about women’s role and ability in science, and their interest in science and careers in science. The author also constructed an overall index summing these components. Impacts were calculated using paired t-tests between the baseline and post-test scores.
- The study found that, among the 35 female 8th-grade students who chose to enroll in InSTEP, interest in science increased, gender stereotypes about science and scientists weakened, and attitudes towards science improved by the end of the program compared with the period before program enrollment. All of these findings were statistically significant.
- The study found no statistically significant relationships between the program and students’ anxiety about science.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The author compared the outcomes of participants measured before and after they participated in InSTEP; there was no comparison group that did not participate in the program and could represent what might have occurred had the girls who chose to participate in InSTEP not enrolled in the program. For study designs of this type, CLEAR’s guidelines require that authors observe outcomes for multiple periods before an intervention to rule out the possibility that participants had increasing or decreasing trends in the outcomes examined before enrollment in the program. That is, if participants who had increasing interest or confidence in science tended to enroll in the program, we would anticipate further increases over time, even if they did not participate in the program. Without knowing the trends before program enrollment, we cannot rule this out.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to InSTEP; other factors are likely to have contributed.