Full Steam Ahead: The Effects of a STEAM-Focused Education on High School Students' Academic Performance, Engagement in School, and Perceptions of College and Career Readiness

Lisa Ida Speropolous, University of New Hampshire, Durham

Abstract

Research on gender differences and attrition rates for undergraduate and graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has yielded an extensive amount of literature, suggesting that pervasive gender stereotypes associating math and science with masculinity contribute to the under-representation of women in STEM fields. However, research on high school students’ experiences with STEM fields is not nearly as comprehensive, as existing research rarely addresses how high school students’ interests in STEM fields are either fostered or diluted. This project utilizes a mixed-method approach by drawing on secondary academic records and in-depth interviews to examine how high school students’ participation in a science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) focused education program impacts student outcomes, including academic performance, engagement in school, and perceptions of college and career readiness. Gender differences are also explored. The findings of this research suggest that high school students who participate in a STEAM focused education program perform better academically, have higher rates of engagement in school, and perceive themselves as more prepared to enter college and the workforce than their peers in the traditional learning environment. The effect of participation in STEAM Ahead on academic performance measures and engagement in school measures were the same for both male and female students.