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Inspiration

An image of a kid at a chalk boardFor NASA to be successful at building programs and technologies that inspire children requires knowing what inspiration is, how to measure it, and more importantly, how to enhance it. To try to answer these questions, the NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future completed a yearlong study of inspiration for the space agency.

NASA charged the Classroom of the Future™ in 2005 with investigating how to inspire middle school students toward literacy and careers in science, technology, engineering, and technology&emdash;the so-called STEM careers, which also include geography. In 2006's "Inspiration Brief 3" we reported the results of baseline testing of the DiSC (Discussion in a Scientific Context) inspiration tool that we conducted from September-December 2005 with 50 NASA Explorer School educators and more than 1,000 middle school students.

A total of 50 Explorer Schools partner with NASA each year to participate in real-life experiences and promote science, mathematics, and technology careers to students in underserved areas and to provide professional development opportunities for teachers.

Participants in the inspiration study represented a diverse demographic from classrooms across the continental United States and Hawaii. Students took part in four weeks of classroom instruction that culminated with e-Mission™: Operation Montserrat, a NASA-approved live simulation conducted via the Internet and created by the Challenger Learning Center® at the Center for Educational Technologies®. During the two-hour simulation students work as scientists on crisis teams analyzing authentic data and responding to a hurricane/volcano disaster that actually occurred in 1996 on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.

Results from our study suggested that:
  1. Student perception of skills and challenges is higher during the e-Mission than at any other time during the four-week unit of classroom study. The literature identifies a state in which a person's skills and challenges are higher than his or her average as "flow". This effect was significant and modest.
  2. Parents' level of education appears to have affected how the DiSC tool prepared learners for the e-Mission. Students who reported their parents had completed high school or fewer years of education perceived higher levels of skills/challenges during the e-Mission when they had used DiSC. This effect was significant and modest.
  3. Overall, the DiSC tool increased learners' perception of skills and challenges during the e-Mission. This effect was significant and weak.
  4. Operation Montserrat increased student academic achievement an average of 1.5 points on a 16-item pre-/posttest. This was a significant and modest effect.
  5. Learners with higher levels of perceived skill and challenge during the e-Mission scored higher on a standards-based posttest drawn from national and state tests. This effect was significant and weak.
  6. The Classroom of the Future developed an argumentation self-efficacy scale for this study. Internal reliability for this scale was high ( α pre =.86, α post =.91 ).

Inspiration Brief 1

Inspiration Brief 2

Inspiration Brief 3