The Common Instrument is a survey for youth 10 years or older that includes 10 self-report items to assess child and adolescent interest and engagement in science. The Common Instrument is simple and quick to administer, easy to receive feedback on, and useable for pre-post analysis.
There is strong recognition in the field of informal science education (ISE) and Out-of-School Time (OST) programming that engagement, interest and curiosity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are key processes for student outcomes. In fact, these dimensions have been placed at the center of the consensus studies entitled Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects (Friedman, et al., 2008) and Learning Science in Informal Environments: Places, People, and Pursuits (National Research Council, 2009). Both groups concluded that in the informal STEM and OST arena, a sole focus on content learning is inappropriate and that the specific role of informal environments and OST is to spark and retain student interest and engagement in STEM.
Existing instruments measuring engagement (e.g., Science Motivation Questionnaire (SMQ) Children's Environmental Attitudes & Social Knowledge Scale (CHEAKS), Children's Science Curiosity Scale (CSCS), and the Children's Attitudes Toward Technology Scale (CATS)) are not sufficiently nimble to be used as a fast screen. For example, the Test of Science Related Attitudes (TOSRA) consists of seventy items and the Wareing Attitudes toward Science Protocol (WASP) of fifty items. In addition, none of the existing tools tie themselves to a national testing system, such as the NAEP, with all the normative data available for immediate comparative use.
Developing the Common Instrument: These gaps prompted Cary Sneider and Gil Noam (in discussions with Ron Ottinger, Penny Noyce, and Alan Friedman) to identify the need for a reliable tool that measures engagement and interest in informal science and OST programs. The tool required the following key features: it had to be easy to administer quickly, could be used in a large variety of settings, and was concise enough for practitioners across various disciplines to administer to young people. It was determined that the instrument should provide baseline information regarding youth enrolled in STEM programs and activities, and that it should allow tracking of longitudinal effects. While these are ambitious goals considering that the Common Instrument is limited in length, a central goal of the Common Instrument is to remain concise and simple, and to respond to the input of field practitioners.
Validating the Common Instrument: Currently, we are collaborating with several sites that are administering the Common Instrument to gather data that will help us establish its psychometric properties and will help us validate the tool for widespread use.
If you would like to use the Common Instrument with your students, please Contact Us.
For more information or to download a flyer on the Common Instrument please Click Here.