Study Links After-School Programs to Improved STEM Knowledge


Researchers have determined that after-school programs can help students in grades 4 through 12 improve their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

In a study titled “Afterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016,” researchers examined more than 160 after-school programs in 11 states:

  • Florida
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina

The researchers interviewed nearly 1,600 students in grades 4 to 12 and asked more than 145 teachers/facilitators to complete questionnaires, according to Education Week.

The study found that these after-school programs change the way the majority of students see the STEM field:

  • 80 percent said their STEM career knowledge increased;
  • 78 percent reported a more positive attitude about STEM; and
  • 72 percent said their perseverance and critical thinking skills increased.

Across all 11 states, 70 percent of students reported positive gains in these areas. The programs rated the highest quality had the most positive student outcomes, Ed Week said.

The study also found that the majority of teachers/facilitators believed the programs helped students increase their STEM skills, with 90 percent of them reporting their students’ science proficiency and confidence had improved, according to Ed Week.

The study has not been officially released yet, although it’s expected to be published later this month. Researchers did provide an 11-page overview of their findings today.

Results from the study can also be found in “STEM Ready America: Inspiring and Preparing Students for Success with After-School and Summer Learning,” a collection of articles from 40 experts in the field.

The study’s researchers are from The PEAR Institute: Partnership in Education and Resilience at Harvard University and McLean Hospital and the Institute for Measurement, Methodology, Analysis & Policy at Texas Tech University.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next supported the study.

For more information, visit the STEM Ready America site.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].