Adult Learning Center
(Funders: American Association of University Women, with additional support from the NYS Education Department, the Institute for Literacy Studies, and Lehman College)

This study investigates the impact of Project RISE, a new class for adult learners focused on STEM learning and career development through a study of Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Thirty pre-GED level students read sections of the book, discussed key issues online, participated in health-care career forums presented by Lehman’s Masters in Public Health Program, and learned about cell biology and health and medicine through reading, writing, and hands-on work in Lehman College’s biology laboratory. 

The program was evaluated for its impact on students’ science content learning, STEM career interest, and personal growth. Measures included pre- and post-assessments of the TABE; GED Official Practice Test scores on science; STEM interest inventory, and selected questions from the “Possible Selves” Questionnaire (Oyserman 2004). A sample of student portfolios was reviewed for impact indicators. Results indicated the following:

  • a 10% rate of improvement in students’ science content knowledge.
  • initial high level of interest in science-related areas and jobs, with post-program spikes in mathematics and computer science interest. 
  • high goals and high motivation to pursue higher education. 

A considerable number of participants who persisted from the fall through the spring were women; these findings convinced us of the importance of a program such as RISE for diverse adult learners and women in particular. Though our data did not measure the relationship among high goals, motivation for higher education, and educational support, a secondary finding from this program appears to support the efficacy of providing support of this kind for the populations we serve, especially support that encourages pursuit of higher education goals in STEM-related areas.

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