The Impact of Informal Science on Girls’ Interest, Engagement and Participation in Science Communities, Hobbies and Careers: A Research and Dissemination Project

April 1st, 2005 - March 31st, 2013 | PROJECT

The Franklin Institute (TFI), in collaboration with the Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI), will conduct a research effort that explores the role that informal science learning plays in supporting girls' long-term interest, engagement and participation in science communities, hobbies and careers. Five longstanding programs for girls, begun 5-20+ years ago, will be the focus of the proposed study and include the National Science Partnership (NSP), Girls at the Center (GAC), Wonderwise, and Women in Natural Sciences (WINS). The selected study projects have access to girl participants who are high-school aged or older and represent diverse race, ethnicity and SES. A national Research Advisory Council will ground the investigation and review the findings at each stage of the research. The Community of Practice (CoP) literature (Lave and Wenger, 1991) will provide the theoretical frame for the overarching research question. Findings will document long-term impacts of girls' participation in identified informal science programs, determine how informal contexts in general contribute to girls' science learning and achievement, and develop a model for understanding the impact of informal science learning initiatives. Deliverables will include specific examples of informal learning experiences that support girls' long-term participation in science and evidence of the types of influences, including significant adults and particular activities, that contribute to girls' trajectories of participation. Dissemination tools will be a national conference, a research monograph and a series of workshops conducted in conjunction with professional conferences for informal science educators. By better understanding the impact of informal programs in science, specifically and more generally, and by developing and demonstrating an effective model for understanding such impact across projects, the proposed research stands to inform the field and provide a base for future project development and research efforts. The research results will improve the understanding of practice in these arenas and will document the significant role that informal programs place in influencing girls' vocational and avocational choices and participation in STEM fields. The study will also demonstrate the applicability of the CoP research model and its lessons to other informal science programs.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Cascading Influences: Long-Term Impacts of STEM Informal Experiences for Girls

Team Members

Dale McCreedy, Principal Investigator, Franklin Institute
Lynn Dierking, Co-Principal Investigator, Institute for Learning Innovation


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 0452419
Funding Amount: 1205758


Audience: Elementary School Children (6-10) | General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Conferences | Museum and Science Center Programs | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Professional Development and Workshops | Public Programs