What is STEM Interest?


The landmark National Research Council consensus report Learning Science in Informal Environments (2009), which was based on a review of the literature to date, posited that learners in informal environments “experience excitement, interest, and motivation to learn about phenomena in the natural and physical world” as one of six strands of informal science learning. In 2016, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology identified “increased interest and motivation” around STEM topics as a short-term, measurable outcome of science engagement activities. For many designers, evaluators, and researchers, these findings and developments affirmed a long-held claim that catalyzing interest is one of the key strengths of informal STEM learning and engagement experiences.

But what do we mean by “interest”? In 2018, the Evaluation and Measurement Task Force asked a sample of 10 STEM education researchers, science communication scholars, social psychologists, learning scientists, and informal science educators to share their thinking and work on this complex and rich topic. 

Start with our overview, then delve into the diverse perspectives.

The Role of Interest in STEM Learning and Science Communication