STEM education plays a major role in advancing society. The Philadelphia Education Fund is a nonprofit organization with focuses on improving public education through advocacy, developing more effective teachers through professional development workshops, and promoting a college-going culture at schools. This summer, I was part of the STEM research task force under Dr. Nancy Peter and evaluated the professional development for STEM educators. The goal of this project was to find trends in the attendance data for the Teacher Forums and Networking Meetings and increase retention, as well as learn how to improve future offerings. Since the workshops were held during the school year, I could only work with data and survey feedback. I predicted that retention would be low and considered if factors such as day of the week and offered credits would significantly affect attendance. Retention turned out to be low and due to the small sample size of eight workshops, it was difficult to analyze the significance of each factor. The data was also all quantitative, which does not reveal the reasoning behind trends. In addition, I developed surveys to gather the feedback data, analyzed the results, and delivered detailed reports.
Dr. Peter allowed me to experience the many corners of the organization. I learned that research is not defined only by lab work or Excel and played an interactive role within the STEM education community. Everything tied together; I wrote literature reviews about topics that supported the need for STEM professional development. I attended conferences discussing this need and even organized professional development workshops. Through all my responsibilities, I became more educated about the STEM ecosystem and developed qualitative and quantitative research and communication skills. Before participating in PURM, I knew I wanted to pursue environmental education but wasn’t sure it was possible. Now, I have not only gained confidence in that goal but also been inspired by the individuals who make up that population. I am eager to continue working with PEF to improve Philly’s STEM education ecosystem.