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BEAMS: Impact

Long-Term Evaluation. BEAMS and Dr. Iris Weiss of Horizons Research have developed a program for long-term evaluation that is being implemented in collaboration with the school districts. It incorporates measures of student attitudes, achievement, academic course choices, and graduation rates.

Short-Term Evaluation: 5th and 6th Grade Students.As a short-term evaluation, the attitudes of 5,100 5th and 6th graders who have had BEAMS experiences over the past four years have been surveyed. The surveys were conducted twice--once 1-2 weeks before the BEAMS visit and then 3 weeks after the BEAMS visit. Conclusions drawn from the results are as follows:

  • BEAMS students have a better understanding than they did before of the importance of math and science
  • girls' perceptions that women can be scientists increase after participating in BEAMS
  • BEAMS students have specific and realistic ideas of what scientists do
  • BEAMS students become more interested than before in the possibility of attending college

Student Attitudes: 9th Graders. The attitudes of 85 9th graders whose last BEAMS experience was in 5th grade were also surveyed. Conclusions drawn from the results are as follows:

  • former BEAMS students have maintained a higher interest in science and science courses than have controls
  • former BEAMS students appear to be more comfortable and less anxious about science than controls

Teacher Attitudes. Participating teachers are always surveyed twice, first on the last day of their BEAMS visit and then at the end of the school year. One hundred thirteen teachers have responded to both surveys. Conclusions drawn from the results are as follows:

  • 99% of the teachers reported that the BEAMS activities were appropriate for their students
  • 93% reported that they were affected by the BEAMS program in various ways, such as by being exposed to new activities, teaching ideas, and resources
  • 76% reported concerns about how their class would perform during the BEAMS experience; only 20% reported that their concerns were realized
  • 80% reported that they use BEAMS materials in their classes

Parent Reactions. In the last year, 1,152 parents of children who have had the BEAMS experience responded to a survey. The results showed that

  • 98% would recommend BEAMS to other parents
  • 76% said that their child talked more about BEAMS than he/she normally talked about school
  • Scientist Reactions. There have been three attitudinal surveys of technical-staff volunteers. The results have been very positive and have included a few suggestions for new activities. In addition, in the history of the program, only three volunteers who were in a position to do so have not signed up again.

    Impact as a Model Program. The BEAMS program does not have to be housed in a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored National Laboratory. It could be replicated, with adaptation, in any big research laboratory. The first such replication is now under way at Siemens Automotive, Inc., in Newport News, VA.

    Evaluating Long-term Impact. The education department at the Jefferson Lab plans to validate the entire BEAMS program as a model of a program that uses the resources of a large laboratory optimally to support public education in general and the realization of national education goals in particular.

    Copyright National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.