STEM Professional Development for Youth Workers: Results of a Triangulated Study


  • Melissa Pearman Fenton University of Florida
  • Leslie Hawley Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation
  • Saundra Wever Frerichs University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Kathleen Lodl University of Nebraska-Lincoln



professional development, STEM pedagogy, triangulated evaluation, youth worker skills


To increase the quality of informal science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning opportunities, many youth development professionals working in out-of-school time (OST) programs need professional development focused on facilitating these types of activities. Nebraska Extension developed an open-access repository of resources that support an ongoing, blended approach to STEM professional development for youth workers. The current study evaluated the impact on staff, programs, and youth achieved by implementing Click2Science resources in sites at a large youth serving organization. Data sources included site or program director/coordinator and frontline staff perceptions about their experiences during the professional development events, observations of staff facilitating STEM learning with youth, and youth interest in STEM. Findings demonstrated an increase in STEM program quality, as measured by the Dimensions of Success (DoS) Observational Tool (n.d.). Site or program director/coordinators and frontline staff found the professional development eye-opening and user friendly, and noted increased youth engagement following the intervention. Youth reported positive perceptions of STEM learning experiences. Triangulation of these three sources confirmed the promising utility and effectiveness of this professional development approach. Further research is needed to extend the preliminary findings and support the case for increased investment in STEM professional development for youth development professionals.

Author Biographies

Melissa Pearman Fenton, University of Florida

Melissa Pearman Fenton is a Doctoral Student and Graduate Assistant in the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences at the University of Florida. Previously, Melissa was  the Extension Educator and Project Manager for Click2SciencePD at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Melissa holds a Master of Applied Science degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a specialization in leadership education and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in Child, Youth, and Family Studies.

Saundra Wever Frerichs, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Dr. Saundra Wever Frerichs is a Science Education Specialist at the University of Nebraska and part of the Click2SciencePD team. Her work is tightly focused on informal science education. Dr. Frerichs has created opportunities for out-of-school learning experiences for youth in performing arts, social studies, science, technology and engineering. She has experience developing educational experiences, exhibits, resources and programs as well as researching their impact and the interaction between informal and formal educational institutions. Provide short biographical notes on all contributors here if the journal requires them.

Kathleen Lodl, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Dr. Kathleen Lodl is the Associate Dean of Extension and State 4-H Program Leader at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


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