iRT Awarded NIGMS Grant

Durham, NC, September 30, 2020 – innovation Research & Training (iRT) is expanding its suite of mentor training courses to include training for mentors who work with STEM mentoring programs. The National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) awarded iRT with a grant (R43GM137663) to fund the development of a new, customizable mentor training course that covers new topics that are particularly relevant for informal STEM learning environments. A primary goal of this training will be to attract and retain youth in a STEM field from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers including first generation college students, youth with a disability, girls, and youth from an ethnic or racial minority group.

The new course will include topics discussed in the STEM Supplement to the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring and will be developed iteratively, based on feedback from STEM mentoring professionals. The final product will allow mentoring program staff members to compile a customized course including topics of their choosing from our library and then, use iRT’s proprietary learning management system to deploy the training to their mentors.

The Phase I development grant will include a usability study with STEM mentoring program staff members to ensure that the software and interface are fully functional. After incorporating user feedback into appropriate program revisions, a small feasibility study will be conducted with STEM mentoring program staff members and mentors serving in their programs to ensure that the course pedagogy and content are realistic and engaging for end users.

Dr. Katie Stump, the study’s co-principal investigator and a developmental psychologist at iRT, said, “STEM mentoring programs have unique mentor training challenges that are not often addressed through general mentor training content. Our new STEM mentor training course will include some topics that are unique to STEM such as how to communicate passion for STEM topics and how to develop a mentee’s tolerance for failure. Ensuring that mentors are effectively trained to work with youth in STEM contexts will help youth remain engaged in the STEM mentoring program and, ultimately, pursue further STEM education.”

Dr. Rebecca Stelter, the study’s co-principal investigator and a developmental psychologist at iRT, said, “Developing a training course for mentors working with STEM mentoring programs highlights iRT’s dedication to mentoring. With this customizable product, STEM mentoring programs will be able to design a course that meets their unique needs.”

Dr. Janis Kupersmidt, the President of iRT and a co-investigator on this project, said “Creating additional research-informed resources furthers iRT’s mission to create elegant asynchronous eLearning solutions to support high quality mentoring experiences for youth. This project, in particular, fills an important gap in the mentoring field, namely, to build knowledge and skills in mentors so they will attract and retain youth into STEM fields who are in groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.”

For more information about this project or learn how you might get involved, contact Dr. Stump. Learn more about iRT’s mentoring trainings.

About innovation Research & Training

Established in 1999, innovation Research & Training (iRT) is behavioral sciences research organization located in Durham, NC. Dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of children, teens, families, schools, communities, and organizations, iRT conducts research, and creates evidence-based programs and resources, particularly in the areas of substance abuse prevention, sexual health promotion, social-emotional assessment and learning, healthy coping with stress, violence prevention, safe driving, disabilities, STEM, and workplace wellness.