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Psychological, Social and Cultural Factors in Interest and Participation, Accomplishments and Challenges in STEM Education and Careers Silvia Sara Canetto,

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Presentation on theme: "Psychological, Social and Cultural Factors in Interest and Participation, Accomplishments and Challenges in STEM Education and Careers Silvia Sara Canetto,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Psychological, Social and Cultural Factors in Interest and Participation, Accomplishments and Challenges in STEM Education and Careers Silvia Sara Canetto, Ph.D., NSF External Advisory Panel Meeting Fort Collins, September 2008

2 The Issue  In the United States women and some ethnic minorities are under-represented in education and careers in some STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.  In the United States, these fields include engineering and some physical sciences, including geo and atmospheric sciences.

3 The Pipeline Metaphor  This under- representation is greater the higher the level of education and career.

4 The Pipeline Breaks Down Early  The under-participation of U.S. females and some ethnic minorities in STEM starts as early as late elementary school Before 9 th grade:About equal numbers of girls and boys with scientific interest and aptitude (Berryman, 1983) End of high school: “slight male over-representation” Undergraduate major choice diverge in some STEM fields across social groups

5 Complexities  Some STEM disciplines attract and retain a diversity of individuals, that is women and men across ethnicities  Other STEM disciplines are much less successful  Not simply an issue of science per se, but which science

6 Complexities  Not an issue of ethnic minority per se--there is diversity across ethnic minorities in STEM participation and achievement  Not an issue of specific ethnic minorities--context matters. Participation and achievement in STEM varies by type of university (e.g., traditionally Black colleges versus “general” colleges)

7 Complexities  Not an issue of women per se % female (#) Taiwan 2.3% (12)Taiwan 2.3% (12) Japan 8.9% (269)Japan 8.9% (269) Canada 13.5% (78)Canada 13.5% (78) U.S. 16.9% (925)U.S. 16.9% (925) France 25.4% (234)France 25.4% (234) Bulgaria27.6%(16)Bulgaria27.6%(16) Italy 35.0% (251)Italy 35.0% (251) Proportion of women earning engineering Ph.D.s varies widely by country

8 Complexities Proportion of Female Physics Professors varies widely by country

9 Nature Or Nurture? From:www.fortworth.com/01visitors/0106museums/www.fortworth.com/01visitors/0106museums/ ftworthsciencehist/010604ftworthsciencehist.shtml

10  The patterns of STEM suggest the influence of psychological, social and cultural factors in in interest and participation, achievement and challenges in STEM education and careers hence the focus of our studies, and consistent with the objectives of the STC Program to: “ engage the Nation’s intellectual talent, robustly drawn from its full human diversity, in the conduct of research and education”

11 Three main branches of inquiry  1. Evaluating gender/ethnicity messages about science/technology in elementary school materials.  2. Assessing a decade ( ) of the McNair program. This is a mentoring program for female and under represented ethnic minorities majoring in science and technology  3. Assessing STEM education and career trajectory and experiences of women and men across ethnicities (from undergraduate programs to graduate school to postdoc and professional years)

12 1. Elementary school studies: Goals and Rationale  Goal: Documenting the gender/ethnicity and science/technology messages (e.g., Who is a scientist? Are scientists mostly bespectacled, lab- coat, geeky, eccentric, isolated males of European American background? What do scientists do?)  Rationale: Interest and participation in science and technology by a diversity of students change around middle school. Past research suggest modeling and social norms matter

13 Boys fix things Girls need things fixed

14 The Scientist is Always White and Male

15 Popular Images of Scientists in Popular Science magazine

16 Elementary school studies: Method and key findings  Illustrations and stories in the most recent (2000) edition of the Full Option Science System (FOSS) kits Science Stories for grades 3rd-to 6th were analyzed. FOSS kits are used in many schools in the US. These kits contain materials for experiments as well as a booklets called Science Stories.  FOSS Science Stories show gender and ethnicity biases. For example, males were twice as likely as females to be featured in illustrations, across most activities and settings. Female under-representation was particularly notable in earth, environmental, and physical sciences materials. Ethnic minorities were under-represented or depicted in stereotyped ways.

17 Conclusions  Female and some ethnic minorities underrepresentation in FOSS Science Stories illustrations may contribute to the perception by children that science is a white male realm 5. If replicated across school materials, female and ethnic minorities underrepresentation in science texts may be a factor in girls and women’s and some ethnic minorities retreat from science -- especially earth, environmental and physical science-- education and careers.

18 2. McNair studies: Goal and Rationale Goal: These studies aim at assessing the McNair mentoring program. Rationale: Information on the McNair program data could provide important insights on the experience and consequences of science/technology mentoring of undergraduate female and underrepresented ethnic minority students.

19 One Study’s Specific Aim  In this study, we examined actual and self-perceived academic skills of high- achieving, science and engineering undergraduate students from underrepresented groups (i.e., by sex, ethnicity, income, and/or generation in college) upon admission and graduation from the McNair mentorship program.

20 Method  Sample: McNair Program students (N=177) at a state university: 61% women, 61% ethnic minorities, 80% first generation in college, and 81% low income.  Upon entrance in (Time 1), and graduation from (Time 2) the program for the period we collected Measures of academic performance (Cumulative GPA, practice GRE test scores, and Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal scores (WGCTA; Watson & Glaser, 1994)) and Measures of self-perceptions of academic skills ( Self-reported ratings of academic skills (e.g., test taking skills, organizational skills, note taking skills), creativity, and academic preparedness as well the What I Am Like scale (WIAL; Harter, 1992)).

21 Key Results Women did not significantly differ from men with regard to cumulative GPA, practice GRE scores, and critical thinking. Female students were significantly more likely to have lower self- perceptions of academic skills and creativity than their male counterparts. Women’s self-perceived academic skills scores increased significantly (by.6 SDs) from admission to graduation in the McNair Program, while men’s scores remained stable. Ethnic minority, low-income students had lower GRE scores and more negative perceptions of their test-taking skills than White, low- income students. Both ethnic minority and White, low-income students had lower critical thinking scores than ethnic minority, high income students.

22 Conclusions  The current study indicates that women and men in STEM fields may be similar in their academic skills, but different in their self- perceptions of academic competence.  This study’s findings focus our attention on female students' lower academic confidence as a potential barrier for women in STEM fields.  Women’s higher self-perceived ability at graduation from, compared to entrance in the McNair program suggests a positive influence of mentoring on women’s sense of self-efficacy.  Multiple adverse conditions, such as low family income and ethnic minority status, may have a cumulative negative impact on academic self-perceptions as well as actual performance.

23 3. STEM education and career pathways studies  Assessing STEM education and career trajectory and experiences of women and men across ethnicities (from undergraduate programs to graduate school to postdoc and professional years)

24 Goal and Rationale 1. Goal: This study aims at tracking the career trajectories (via student records and for a subset of participants, via interviews) and experience (via interviews, for a subset of participants) of science/technology female and male students/post-docs across ethnicities, from undergraduate to graduate school to the early post-graduate years. Rationale. The representation of women and of certain ethnic minorities drops at increasingly higher levels of science/technology training and career. The information obtained from this study could contribute to the development of more effective recruitment and retention strategies for female and under-represented ethnic minority scientists.

25 Survey study  Women and men do not differ in doctoral studies completion rates in engineering  Citizenship matters in completion rates

26 Interview Study Progress  Two sites  CSU 14 undergraduate and 25 graduate interviews  MIT 18 graduate interviews

27 Plans  Expand MIT sample

28 … From:


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