Techbridge has proposed a broad implementation project that will scale up a tested multi-faceted model that increases girls' interest in STEM careers. The objectives of this project are to increase girls' engineering, technology, and science skills and career interests; build STEM capacity and sustainability across communities; enhance STEM and career exploration for underrepresented girls and their families; and advance research on the scale-up, sustainability, and impact of the model with career exploration. The Techbridge approach is grounded in Eccles' expectancy value model, and helps bridge critical junctures as girls transition from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school, immersing participants in a network of peers and supportive adults.
Techbridge targets girls in grades 5-12 with a model that includes five components: a previously tested and evaluated curriculum, career exploration, professional development for staff and teachers, family engagement, and dissemination. The inquiry-based curriculum introduces electrical engineering and computer science through engaging, hands-on units on Cars and Engines, Green Design, and Electrical Engineering. The Techbridge model will be enhanced to include a central repository for curriculum and support materials, electronic girl-driven career exploration resources, an online learning community and video tools for staff, and customized family guides. Project deliverables include the dissemination of the enhanced model to three cities, 24 school sites and teachers, 2,000 girls, and over 600 role models. A supplementary research component will study the broad implementation of the Techbridge model by examining the fidelity of implementation and the program's impact on girls' STEM engagement and learning. The research questions are as follows:
1. To what extent and how do new program sites demonstrate adherence to the Techbridge program model? 2. Do new sites experience similar or increased participant responsiveness to Techbridge programming with regard to scientific learning outcomes, career awareness, attitude and interest in engineering? 3. How are changes experienced by girls sustained over time, if at all? 4. To what extent and how do new sites balance instilling the Techbridge essentials, those critical components Techbridge identifies as essential for success, with the need for local adaptation and ownership of the program? 5. Given the potential for customization in local communities, do new sites maintain programmatic quality of delivery experienced at the original site? If so, what are elements essential to success regarding quality delivery?
The mixed-methods study will include document analysis, embedded assessments, participant survey scales, and observations. Qualitative data methods include interviews with teachers, role models, staff and focus groups with girls. A project evaluation will also be conducted which investigates project outcomes for participants (girls, teachers, role models, and families) and fidelity of the implementation and enhancements at expansion sites, using a quasi-experimental approach. Career and learning outcomes for girls will be determined using embedded assessments, portfolios, surveys, school data, and previously validated instruments such as the Career Interest Questionnaire and the Modified Attitudes towards Science Inventory. The Managing Complex Change model is used as a framework for the project evaluation for the purpose of examining factors related to the effectiveness of scaling. The dissemination of research and evaluation findings will be achieved through the use of publications, blogs, social media, and conferences.
It is anticipated that this project will broaden the participation of Hispanic, African-American, and English language learner girls, build capacity for STEM programming and sustainability at the dissemination sites, and disseminate findings to over 1 million educators, researchers, and community members. Broader impacts include contributing to the field's understanding of how virtual role models and field trips can engage young women, increase corporate advocacy, and engage participants in research and dissemination efforts.