Last March, as the Covid shutdowns were just beginning around the country, members of the MMSA research team conducted follow-up interviews with 20 former participants of the ACRES program. The ACRES program provides STEM-focused synchronous online coaching for afterschool educators. Participants sign up for various modules that focus on topics such as asking youth purposeful questions and giving youth voice and choice in their learning. We wanted to determine if participants who had completed their ACRES training months or even years prior still used the skills they had learned.
The interviews, conducted via Zoom, were about an hour long and asked questions like, “How would you describe ACRES?” and “Has ACRES changed anything about how you work with youth?” We designed and scheduled our interviews just prior to the Covid-19 shutdowns across much of the country, and quickly pivoted to included questions about how ACRES training may have helped participants during those early days of the pandemic.
We are currently in the midst of data analysis, but we are excited to share some of our preliminary findings. Of particular interest to us were some unanticipated responses from interviewees around Covid preparedness, ACRES skills used beyond teaching STEM, and how completing the course may have impacted other aspects of their lives.
For example, we found that ACRES helped past participants more easily transition to online platforms during the Covid shutdowns.
We also learned that the skills learned in ACRES went beyond the classroom, and participants used them in their everyday lives:
Some past participants used the self-confidence they gained from ACRES as a springboard to other educational opportunities:
It’s always interesting to hear from past participants of our programs and learn about how various trainings have been helpful to them. It gets really exciting when we learn that participants are utilizing their training in unique ways we didn’t anticipate months or even years after their training has concluded. Stay tuned for more results from our follow-up interviews as we complete final analysis.