The SYNERGIES: Customizing Interventions to Sustain Youth STEM Interest and Participation Pathways is an NSF Research in Service to Practice project (DRL 1516718) which leverages research findings from a previous longitudinal study to support a systematic design phase involving a variety of educational partners (both informal and formal) to develop a set of customized, connected and coordinated learning opportunities that we hypothesize will address the well-documented decline of youth attitudes, interest, and motivation to participate in STEM during early adolescence and beyond.

Our project uses an ecosystem approach in which we conceptualize STEM education as a multidimensional, dynamic system in which all educational experiences are connected and coordinated in such a way that their efforts build upon each other to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Within these larger ecosystems, each learner constructs a unique learning ecology or pathway guided in large part by their personal goals and interests and consisting of the learner’s interactions with opportunities and resources perceived to be available to them.

Over the course of five years, we are tracking youth STEM interest, participation, and a number of potentially influential factors (e.g., parental support) to better understand how youth in the Parkrose community develop interest in STEM, and how they navigate the STEM learning ecosystem in ways that support (or not) their interests. Using both large-scale surveys and in-depth interviews with youth, we are beginning to understand how and why youth are able to pursue STEM interests over time, as well as the challenges many youth face in accessing interest-related resources and opportunities in this community. Our findings will help inform the development of targeted educational interventions that better nurture the interest and motivation necessary for children to pursue science pathways long term.


For more information, please see the following publications:

Falk, J. H., Dierking, L. D., Staus, N. L., Wyld, J. N., Bailey, D. L., & Penuel, W. R. (2016). The Synergies research-practice partnership project: a 2020 Vision case study. Cultural Studies of Science Education 11, 195-212. DOI

Falk, J. H., Staus, N. L., Dierking, L. D., Penuel, W., Wyld, J., Bailey, D. (2016). Understanding youth STEM interest pathways within a single community: the Synergies project. International Journal of Science Education, Part B, 11, 195-212. DOI

Falk, J. H., Staus, N., Dierking, L. D., Wyld, J., Bailey, D., & Penuel, W. R. (2015). The Synergies project: Preliminary results and insights from two years of longitudinal survey research. Museology Quarterly, 29(1), 15-21.

Staus, N.L., Falk, J.H., Penuel, W., Dierking, L., Wyld, J., & Bailey, D. (In press). Interested, disinterested, or neutral: Exploring STEM interest pathways in a low income urban community. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education.

Staus, N.L., Lesseig, K., Lamb, R., Falk, J.H., & Dierking, L. (2019). Validation of a measure of STEM interest for adolescents. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education. DOI