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Researchers and learning designers from the University of California, Berkeley wanted to find out more about how older adults engage in informal STEM learning environments and how they can be an effective pathway to STEM advocacy in adults 50 years or older. This new research aims to (a) develop and apply new methods for measuring engagement in informal STEM learning and STEM advocacy and (b) explore factors that lead to the engagement and advocacy of this population in informal science learning. The work will ultimately generate new knowledge that supports general measurement practices through the rigorous, systematic development of measures of older adult learning.
The team developed, pilot tested, and validated two surveys: a survey to measure engagement in informal STEM learning and one to measure STEM Advocacy. Both surveys are available to download below. The team also hosted two intergenerational informal STEM learning events that brought together older adult members of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Berkeley and UC Berkeley undergraduate students in the Fung Fellowship. At the event the older adults and undergraduates formed small groups of 2-3 older adults and 1-2 undergraduates to develop solutions to a real-world challenge using the human-centered design process. The two surveys were administered and tested at both learning events.
The interdisciplinary team of investigators from the University of California, Berkeley, received funding from NSF’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program to conduct this exploratory research on informal STEM learning among older adults. The researchers include faculty and staff from three campus units: the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute @UC Berkeley (OLLI); the Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology (the Fellowship), part of The Coleman Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership in the College of Engineering; and the Lawrence Hall of Science. For more information, please contact principal investigator Jennifer Mangold or research lead Sarah Olsen.
This report summarizes findings from a STEM learning event for older adults and includes the two instruments developed as part of this project: The STEM Advocacy Survey which is a 36-item measure that includes four subscales that measure components of STEM Advocacy, including Value of STEM for Society, Knowledge of STEM Advocacy, STEM Advocacy Efficacy, and STEM Advocacy Identification; and the STEM Engagement Survey for Older Adults, a ten-item scale adapted for older populations from a previously developed instrument designed for youth (ActivationLab.org) measuring behavioral, cognitive, and affective engagement as part of one unidimensional scale. Findings suggest that the learning event was highly engaging, that orientation toward advocacy did not change as a result of the learning event, and that engagement was moderately correlated with each of the STEM advocacy variables except STEM Advocacy Identification, which was strongly and significantly correlated. The implications of this work for the informal science education field are that:
This report is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number #1906720. Any opinions, findings, and recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
STEM Advocacy Survey for older adults in informal science learning settings
Engagement Survey for older adults in informal science learning settings
Olsen, S., Cannady, M., Mangold, J., Brewster, C., Hartry, A. (2021). Investigating Measurement of STEM Engagement and Advocacy in Older Adults: Learning Event Report. Lawrence Hall of Science. Lawrencehallofscience.org/olderadults
Olsen, S., Cannady, M., Mangold, J., Brewster, C., Hartry, A. (2022). Engagement survey for older adults in informal science learning settings. Lawrence Hall of Science. Lawrencehallofscience.org/olderadults
Olsen, S., Cannady, M., Mangold, J., Brewster, C., Hartry, A. (2022). STEM advocacy survey for older adults in informal science learning settings. Lawrence Hall of Science. Lawrencehallofscience.org/olderadults