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Development of an Internet-delivered Communication Curriculum for Graduate Women in STEM

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Methods, Techniques, and New Programs in Graduate Education

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.427.1 - 23.427.15



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Paper Authors


Dominic R. Primé Arizona State University

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Bianca L. Bernstein Arizona State University


Amy K. Way Villanova University

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Amy K. Way (Ph.D., Arizona State University) is an assistant professor at Villanova University. As an organizational communication scholar, she draws upon critical and feminist theory to inform engaged qualitative research. Her research takes a discursive approach to processes of socialization of identities across the lifespan to understand how discourses organize individuals into particular types of persons.

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Liza Cohen Hita Hita Arizona State University

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T Michael Liddell CareerWISE, Arizona State University


Arti R. Sarma Arizona State University

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Arti R. Sarma is a 5th year doctoral student in Counseling Psychology at Arizona State University.

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Jennifer M Bekki Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Development of an Internet-delivered Communication Curriculum for Graduate Women in STEMThis paper details the process and development of the second major phase of the CareerWISEintervention: communication training aimed at strengthening the knowledge and skills helpful towomen as they navigate the varied interactions that may arise in their graduate experience. Forover six years, the interdisciplinary CareerWISE team has been conducting a program ofresearch, supported by the National Science Foundation, designed to better understand andexplain the individual and environmental conditions that affect attrition and persistence decisionsmade by female students in STEM graduate programs. This research has been used to create amultifaceted web-based intervention available for free to the public, which includes a host ofinformation and tools aimed at supporting women in STEM and increasing their persistence inSTEM fields. Communication training was chosen due to the importance of the skill in scienceand engineering in general, the need for scientists and engineers to be proficient in interpersonalcommunication and conflict resolution skills, and also due to the potential benefits for women inSTEM working in male-dominated environments. The CareerWISE communication trainingmodules are organized in a hierarchical structure with three overarching tiers: (1)Communication Elements, (2) Essential Skills, and (3) Advanced Strategies. The design protocolfor module development employed a cyclical loop whereby content material was developed,piloted, and revised based on participant feedback. The first phase employed literature reviews ofrelevant literatures to help guide conceptualization and to identify the structure of the curriculum.Modules were next developed using recommended practices in the educational psychology andpedagogical theory literatures. Skills and sub-skills were identified from the communication andpsychology literatures and learning objectives were identified for each area of content usingeducational design approaches found to be empirically valid and effective. The real-lifecommunication interaction scenarios—included for practice, reflection, and modeling—weredrawn from composites identified in CareerWISE focus groups which found four major themesthat affect attrition and persistence decisions for graduate women in STEM: (1) advisor issues,(2) balance issues between work and non-work life, (3) climate issues related to the STEMenvironment, and (4) delays and setbacks. Next, initial content evaluations were conductedusing undergraduate and graduate participants from related fields (e.g., counseling psychologyand educational technology) and subsequent revisions were made based on the feedbackprovided. Examples will be provided and data reported for the development, evaluation, andrevision cycles. Currently, the effectiveness of the modules is being evaluated in RandomizedControlled Trials. All of the CareerWISE communication training materials are interconnected,but also function as stand-alone pieces; this provides visitors to the site with a uniqueopportunity to engage the material for quick answers to vexing questions or to more fullyimmerse themselves in a training program that will provide them with essential and advancedskills that may be used, not only in their graduate training, but also throughout the entirety oftheir careers.

Primé, D. R., & Bernstein, B. L., & Way, A. K., & Hita, L. C., & Liddell, T. M., & Sarma, A. R., & Bekki, J. M. (2013, June), Development of an Internet-delivered Communication Curriculum for Graduate Women in STEM Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19441

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015