Indicator 3

Science-related Learning Opportunities in Elementary Schools

Indicator 3 concerns the range of in-school but nonclassroom science-related learning opportunities that elementary schools may offer, arrange, or help broker.

Related DCL Awards (2): Dorph & Hartry; Mandinach & Orland


Priority: Medium

Indicator 3 was not identified as a high priority in the Monitoring Progress report, but there is strong interest among researchers and education philanthropists in out-of-class STEM learning opportunities as strategies for engaging a more diverse group of students in STEM.

Operational Definition

This indicator refers to activities that occur outside the regular classroom and/or time that is intended to contribute to students’ STEM learning, interest, or engagement. Indicator 3 intends to capture learning opportunities that would not be included in the instructional time reported as a part of Indicator 2. The question remains whether this indicator should emphasize measuring those opportunities that are provided by or brokered by schools, or all the STEM-related learning opportunities that students experience.

It is recommended that this indicator be measured at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Important features to measure about STEM-related learning opportunities include: 1) whether participation is required; the timing of the activity (within or outside the regular school day); and 3) the kinds of resources that are available to students.

Although information about this indicator could be gathered from school administrators, it is likely that asking students about their STEM learning opportunities would be more informative. In addition, concrete examples of STEM experiences (e.g., working in a lab) would be easier to measure accurately via surveys than aspects of experience related to practices or processes (e.g., experiences developing your own line of inquiry). A downside of this approach is that it requires responding to many items about possible specific activities, making it less feasible to include on recurring national surveys. Given the uncertainty about how to define this indicator operationally and about the best respondent population and data collection strategy, it will be difficult for researchers to collect national data on this indicator in the near term.

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