Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral student Alexandra Lee is a recipient of MSU’s Graduate Student Award for Community Engaged Scholarship for her role as lead researcher on “The ASPiRES Project.”
ASPiRES (Aligning Student Passions with Regional Education Services), was established in Spring 2020 by Lee and her classmate Brooke Harris-Thomas with the goal of understanding and improving how students used a mandated educational technology platform to engage in career exploration.
“Contributing to students being more strategic about their career choices is very important to me,” said Lee. “That’s what the goal of this project is.”
Spurred by legislation from the State of Michigan requiring schools to support students in career exploration activities, the Ingham Intermediate School District (ISD) and Wilson Talent Center—a career and technical education center for Ingham ISD students—looked to the research team to help them use data to improve their work.
By partnering with the Ingham ISD and Wilson Talent Center, the MSU research team, which grew to include an undergraduate student and third graduate student researcher (Samuela Mouzaoir), utilized qualitative and quantitative methods to gather data from teachers, principals and students regarding their feelings towards career exploration and using an educational technology platform to support these activities.
Specifically, the student-led research team gathered career exploration data from approximately 10,000 students and ran a statistical analysis to understand their selection patterns.
“We did find that when students had higher math scores, they were more inclined to select careers in STEM fields,” said Lee. “We’ve now been disseminating these results around the state of Michigan to help other districts.”
The research also uncovered the likelihood that students may encounter stereotype threats when exploring career possibilities, which is defined as a socially premised psychological threat that arises when one is in a situation or doing something for which a negative stereotype about one’s group applies.
“We looked at reasons why students eliminate options for themselves, which has to do with equity, stereotypes and other factors,” said Harris-Thomas.
Ingham ISD and Wilson Talent center will use the research to improve their processes for career exploration for students. The research has also been shared and disseminated around the state to help other school districts.
The award, which recognizes up to four graduate students each year for their community-involved scholarly work, will be presented to Lee and her team at a ceremony on March 2. In addition to her research team, Lee notes that the project wouldn’t have been possible with her partners at Ingham ISD, Wilson Talent Center and Visiting Professor DeLeon Gray of North Carolina State University.