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Engineering Faculty Perspectives: The Conceptualization of and Promotion of STEM Identity among Undergraduate Women in the Classroom

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Conference

2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity)

Location

New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

February 20, 2022

Start Date

February 20, 2022

End Date

July 20, 2022

Conference Session

Technical Session 11 - Paper 3: Engineering Faculty Perspectives: The Conceptualization of and Promotion of STEM Identity among Undergraduate Women in the Classroom

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

Page Count

21

DOI

10.18260/1-2--39116

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/39116

Download Count

264

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Paper Authors

biography

Sylvia L. Mendez University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

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Dr. Sylvia Mendez is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Leadership, Research, and Foundations at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She earned a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Kansas, a MS in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University, and a BA in Economics from Washington State University. Dr. Mendez is engaged in several National Science Foundation-sponsored projects focused on broadening participation in STEM academia. Her research centers on the creation of optimal higher education policies and practices that advance faculty careers and student success, as well as the schooling experiences of Mexican descent youth in the mid-20th century.

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Emily Kulakowski University of Colorado Colorado Springs

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Elizabeth Peterson University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

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Elizabeth Peterson is a doctoral student in the Department of Leadership, Research, and Foundations at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She earned her MS in Applied Mathematics and BS in Pure Mathematics, both from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Her research interests include the use of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of social science problems as well as the assessment and improvement of tertiary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

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Abstract

This phenomenological study (Moustakas, 1994) explores the ways in which engineering faculty conceptualize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity and promote undergraduate female STEM identity in the classroom. STEM identity is “a reflection of how one understands and positions oneself within the STEM culture and the recognition one receives from others in that community” (Rodriguez et al., 2019, p. 2). As a critical broadening participation strategy, researchers and practitioners have pointed to the need to further the understanding, formation, and growth of STEM identity of those historically underrepresented in STEM. The vitality of our nation’s technological base is at risk if we do not broaden participation in engineering and ensure all individuals receive the support and opportunity to contribute their diverse talents and creativity to this enterprise. In 2019, while a decade high was achieved in undergraduate graduation numbers with 145,618 bachelor’s degrees awarded, only 22.5% of those degrees were conferred upon women (Roy, 2020).

Despite rising numbers in undergraduate STEM educational spaces, women continue to experience obstacles. Research has demonstrated female participation often is hindered by stereotypes related to women’s traditional gender roles and negative assumptions about their academic abilities (Cheryan et al., 2015). As a result, female students have reported their STEM identity is compromised due to a lack of access to discipline-specific socialization opportunities, in addition to being subjected to implicit biases, microaggressions, stereotype threat, and overt discrimination by peers and faculty (Carlone and Johnson, 2007; Morton and Parsons, 2017). Yet, researchers have found faculty who act as “institutional agents” mediate these damaging experiences by proactively supporting student STEM identity (Bensimon et al., 2019). Thiry and Laursen (2011) observed STEM faculty who offer professional socialization experiences and provide both intellectual and personal/emotional support boost student STEM identity. Additionally, faculty can strengthen student STEM identity by exposing their students to STEM professionals who mirror their identities (Kricorian et al., 2020). Furthermore, encouraging classroom, research, and mentoring environments bolster student STEM identity and STEM career pathways (Rodriguez, et al., 2019; Singer et al., 2020).

The purpose of this phenomenological study (Moustakas, 1994) was to spotlight the ways in which engineering faculty conceptualize STEM identity and promote undergraduate female STEM identity in the classroom. A diverse set of 12 tenured/tenure-track engineering faculty at doctoral universities with high research activity (R2 institutions) participated in this study. Faculty from R2 institutions were explicitly selected because R2s tend to be more accessible to a demographically diverse student population. Collins’ (2018) Black Student STEM Identity (BSSI) model served as the conceptual framework for the study. The BSSI model assumes an assets-based approach to STEM talent development and suggests STEM identity is intersectional, dynamic, developmental, and multidimensional. Four components comprise Collins’ model: reflective identity, competence/ability, values/interest, and assimilation. The model served as the foundation for the interview protocol, as well as a deductive lens with which to analyze the data and a channel to consider the implications of the study. Moustakas’ (1994) four-stage process of phenomenological data analysis was followed: epoché, horizontalization, imaginative variation, and synthesis.

Three major themes emerged relative to the ways in which engineering faculty conceptualize STEM identity and promote undergraduate female STEM identity in the classroom: (1) Faculty demonstrate awareness of STEM identity but cannot define it; (2) Faculty tend to be passive in promoting the STEM identity of women in the curricula; and (3) Faculty intentionally promote student STEM identity through research and service rather than teaching. Thus, the essence of the phenomenon is that although engineering faculty are generally committed to broadening participation in their discipline, a greater understanding of the role of faculty in stimulating the STEM identity of women may be a necessary step to support more women earning baccalaureate degrees in engineering. These findings reveal the importance of creating engineering faculty development programming designed to improve their conceptualization of STEM identity, as well as the classroom practices used to promote the STEM identity of women. Operating in more inclusive ways by attending to female STEM identity can potentially improve students’ sense of belonging in STEM, enhance academic outcomes of all students, and expand the engineering workforce.

References

Bensimon, E. M., Dowd, A. C., Stanton-Salazar, R., and Davila, B. A. (2019). The role of institutional agents in providing institutional support to Latinx students in STEM. The Review of Higher Education, 42(4), 1689–1721.

Carlone, H. B., and Johnson, A. (2007). Understanding the science experiences of women of color: Science identity as an analytic lens. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(8), 1187–1218.

Cheryan, S., Master, A., and Meltzoff, A. N. (2015). Cultural stereotypes as gatekeepers: Increasing girls’ interest in computer science and engineering by diversifying stereotypes. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(49), 1–8.

Collins, K. H. (2018). Confronting color-blind STEM talent development: Toward a contextual model for Black student STEM identity. Journal of Advanced Academics, 29(2), 143–168.

Kricorian, K., Seu, M., Lopez, D., Ureta, E., and Equils, O. (2020). Factors influencing participation of underrepresented students in STEM fields: Matched mentors and mindsets. International Journal of STEM Education, 7(16), 1–9.

Morton, T. R., and Parsons, E. C. (2017). #BlackGirlMagic: The identity conceptualization of Black women in undergraduate STEM education. Science Education, 102, 1363–1393.

Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Sage.

Rodriguez, S., Cunningham, K., and Jordan, A. (2019). STEM identity development for Latinas: The role of self- and outside recognition. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 18(3), 254–272. Roy, J. (2020). Engineering and engineering technology by the numbers 2019. American Society for Engineering Education. https://ira.asee.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Engineering-by-the-Numbers-FINAL-2021.pdf

Singer, A., Montgomery, G., and Schmoll, S. (2020). How to foster the formation of STEM identity: Studying diversity in an authentic learning environment. International Journal of STEM Education, 7(57), 1–12.

Thiry, H., and Laursen, S. L. (2011). The role of student-advisor interactions in apprenticing undergraduate researchers into a scientific community of practice. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 20(6), 771–784.

Mendez, S. L., & Kulakowski, E., & Peterson, E. (2022, February), Engineering Faculty Perspectives: The Conceptualization of and Promotion of STEM Identity among Undergraduate Women in the Classroom Paper presented at 2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity) , New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/1-2--39116

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