Measuring cognitive engagement and motivation in informal contexts
Obery, Amanda Christine
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Middle school (G5-8) students' cognitive engagement, motivation, and future aspirations in science were quantified within informal contexts (week-long summer camps) with self-reported measures of cognitive strategies, self-regulation, value, self-efficacy, and future aspirations over the course of two phases (N = 152, N =140). The participating middle school students engaged in one of two informal science summer camp opportunities. Informal science experiences may be places which participants can gain science-related capital in equitable ways. This study set out to test the growth in cognitive engagement, motivation, and future aspirations in science differed from students of varying genders, races, and socioeconomic statuses. Survey results over the course of two phases were analyzed via partial-least squares structural equation modeling to explore whether cognitive engagement and motivation predicted future aspirations in science, such as taking high school courses or pursuing a career in the sciences. As operationalized, cognitive engagement (cognitive strategies and self-regulation) and motivational (value and self-efficacy) constructs significantly predicted future aspirations in science (R 2 = 0.29, p < 0.05). Growth in cognitive engagement and motivation were also investigated to understand if students of different genders, races, and socioeconomic statuses have different experiences, with only small differences being uncovered. Results support the claim about the key role that cognitive engagement, motivation, and informal learning experiences may play to encourage future aspirations in science and show the ability of these experiences to foster the development of these skills in equitable ways. Better understanding cognitive engagement and motivation and how these are influenced by informal science experiences could improve the effectiveness of these interventions to foster students' future aspirations in science, a continuing societal priority, in ways that do not fall into the same patterns of inequality that seem to persist in formal education.