Project RISE Pilot Study

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The Project RISE Pilot Study (PRPS) is a two-year pilot study designed to address critical methodological challenges inherent in doing longitudinal research linking informal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) experiences and school achievement: first, by addressing selection bias through careful selection of a comparison group that is comparable to the intervention group, and second, by developing a qualitative design that both complements and extends the quantitative data collected. The pilot study will lay the groundwork for a future longitudinal study looking at the role of informal science education in youth persistence in STEM courses (Project RISE, Role of Informal Science Education in Youth Persistence in STEM Courses).

The Project RISE pilot study (PRPS) addresses the following methodological questions:

  1. How can longitudinal studies of the impact of informal science education on formal education choices appropriately identify, recruit, and retain a comparison group of students to address the challenges of selection bias?
  2. What questions and methods should be included in qualitative longitudinal research in order to assure that the results will deepen and extend the quantitative findings?

With future funding, Project RISE will seek to answer the following research questions:

  • How does participation in informal science education contribute to the choice of high school STEM courses for traditionally underrepresented students?
    • How do experiences vary by student characteristics?
    • How do experiences vary by different school and informal program components?
  • How do students describe their experiences, and to what do they attribute their STEM-related choices(including choices to enroll or not enroll in STEM courses)?

Sites: three ITEST youth-based projects in Boston, St. Louis, and California.

Research Design: 

The research design for this project is longitudinal and comparative, and is designed to generate evidence that is descriptive, using youth case studies describing their experiences in informal STEM education, and also evidence that is associative/ correlational using quasi-experimental methods. The comparison group is made up of youth who are similar to intervention youth on all characteristics except that they are not participating in the intervention.

This project collects original data using school records/policy documents, survey research including online self-completion questionnaires, and both face-to-face and telephone semi-structured/informal interviews. The online questionnaire includes items about academic trajectory, career aspirations, attitudes to STEM, encouragement from others, demographic and background characteristics. It was developed from questionnaires used in ITEST and other NSF informal STEM education projects. The interview protocol is an in-depth exploration of a subset of questionnaire areas: attitudes to STEM, career aspirations, encouragement from others, as well as informal STEM participation.

The analysis of comparison group bias will include propensity score matching and ANOVA. The questionnaire development will involve factor analysis to build scale and refine items. Substantive analysis will include discrete time survival analysis (the probability that youth will stay in science and mathematics courses throughout high school).


To date this project has not generated any findings.

Publications & Presentations: 

Parker, C.E. (2010). Project RISE Pilot Study: Methods in Longitudinal Studies of Youth in Informal STEM Education. Presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado, May 2010.