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Public Health Reports: Early Preparation and Inspiration for STEM Careers: Preliminary Report of the Epidemiology Challenge Randomized Intervention, 2014-2015

In a recent article in Public Health Reports, Dr. Robin Taylor Wilson and Ms. Emma Watson of Pennsylvania State University Public Health Program, Dr. Mark Kaelin of Montclair State University, and Dr. Wendy Huebner of K-12 Epidemiology Education Services, Inc. report on the short-term changes in scientific literacy and science-related motivations and beliefs of students who participated in the Epi Challenge, a year-long, project-based learning intervention aimed to increase high school students’ interest and persistence in the biomedical sciences. Authors randomly assigned 9th grade students form 5 high schools to either the Epi Challenge or no intervention. Epi Challenge intervention included intensive summer training, team participation, working on a simulated research project, project-based learning, and delivering scientific presentations. At mid-year, the authors conducted a short-term assessment of various dimensions of the participants’ science literacy and personal interest in science. They found significant increases in the scores for scientific self-efficacy, which measures the participant’s belief in his/her capability to achieve a scientific goal or outcome, and personal scientific epistemology, which reflects the student’s beliefs about the sources and certainty of scientific knowledge. Authors conclude that further follow-up of this cohort may shed light on whether the intervention will increase the number of students who choose a STEM college major or career.

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