New article on understanding engagement in out-of-school STEM programs using an experience sampling method to study youths’ experiences

Joshua Rosenberg


With Jen Schmidt, Patrick Beymer, Neil Naftzger, and Lee Shumow, I recently published an article on youth’s engagement in one of nine out-of-school, STEM- focused summer programs. The study uses an experience sampling method (or ESM) to study youth’s experiences, in which participating youth were asked multiple, short surveys “in- the-moment”, rather than one (or more) longer surveys at less-regular intervals. The logic is that such surveys can assess something like engagement in a qualitatively (and subjectively, for youth) different way than a traditional survey can.

As an aside, the first author for this paper, Jen, wrote a book on ESM with Joel Hektner and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - Csikszentmihalyi (whose name I learned to pronounce!) named the idea of a “flow” state - and used ESM to study flow.

This article came from a project I was involved in first as a graduate research assistant - it was the first I was involved with using ESM, which I’m now using in a few ongoing projects, including one funded through the National Science Foundation and one with Stephen Aguilar and colleagues that is focused on how teachers plan for their teaching.

The article is in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching and is available as a pre-print here.

The abstract for the article is here:

Out-of-school-time programs for youth that are focused on STEM content are often seen as affording opportuni- ties to increase youth engagement, interest, and knowl- edge in STEM domains, yet we know relatively little about how youth actually experience such programs. In this article, we explore how experiences and activities employed in the delivery of summer STEM programs are associated with youth engagement during programmming, and whether youth characteristics moderate these relationships. Data were collected from 203 youth (ages 10–16) in nine summer programs using multiple methods including video, experience sampling, and sur- veys. Through the use of cross-classified, multi-level models, we found that youth reported higher engage- ment in program activities they perceived to be more challenging and relevant, and in activities, they per- ceived to have more affordances for learning or develop- ing skills. Gender moderated these relationships such that the positive relationships observed among males were muted or nonexistent for girls. We further identify that program activities are differently associated with fostering challenge, relevance, and learning. Findings have implications for out-of-school STEM programming for youth.

The article is available from the journal’s website here: