The objective of this program is to engage students and teachers from urban African American and rural Appalachian schools in a community-based participatory research (CBPR) program focused on drug abuse and addiction in their local communities. CBPR is an orientation to scientific inquiry that values shared decision-making and equitable collaboration between community and academic partners. In this case, CBPR will engage students in the role of scientist, with respected contextual expertise and perspective that will not only improve the quality of the research but also increases the potential for positive social change.
Engaging students in CBPR to investigate drug abuse and addiction in their own communities will allow youth to experience how scientific practices and STEM skills can address real-world problems, which will increase their perceived relevance of science in a way that traditional classroom-based learning cannot. Youth who collaborate as shared decision-makers in research are more likely to develop intrinsic interest in STEM research professions. By facilitating meaningful engagement in addiction science research, we will reach our long-term goal of increasing economic, geographic, and racial diversity in the research workforce.
Our program has two specific aims:
Increase student-engaged STEM pedagogy in high school classrooms by training teachers in community-based participatory research and advanced STEM skills. Expected outcomes for teachers include increased skill and self-efficacy in STEM teaching and student-engaged teaching techniques. Promote STEM skills, knowledge, and interest by engaging high school students through CBPR projects that share decision-making at every step of the research process, from inception to dissemination.
Expected outcomes for students include increased STEM knowledge and skills, increased interest in scientific research, increased STEM efficacy, and a desire to pursue a biomedical, behavioral or clinical research career.
We will accomplish these aims through an annual cycle of activities that each year engages a new group of students as co-researchers in investigations of drug abuse and addiction in their local communities. Annual activities will include: 1) on-campus teacher training, 2) a two day student training on campus, 3) a research proposal development phase, 4) six months to implement the students’ chosen research design, and 5) dissemination events on campus and in the community. Throughout the activity cycles, students will collaborate with and receive mentorship from our extremely diverse faculty team, the majority of whom have lived experiences in the communities of the students. Participation by at least 210 students and at 12-20 teachers over the course of the program will significantly impact the representation of urban African Americans and rural Appalachians in behavioral, biomedical, and clinical research careers.