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Gender, Motivation, and Pedagogy in the STEM Classroom: A Quantitative Characterization

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Motivation, Identity, and Belongingness

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jonathan D. Stolk Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Jon Stolk strives to design and facilitate extraordinary learning experiences. He creates project-based and interdisciplinary courses and programs that invite students to take control of their learning, grapple with complex systems, engage with each other and the world in new ways, and emerge as confident, agile, self-directed learners. Stolk’s research aims to understand how students experience different classroom settings, particularly with regard to how individuals express situational motivations and develop their own beliefs about learning. Stolk endeavors to translate research-to-practice, and to assist other instructors in creating innovative student experiences and driving educational change. A core aspect of his professional work involves creating simple design tools and conceptual frameworks that enable faculty to understand their classrooms in new ways, and to gain confidence in trying new approaches and deploying course prototypes. Stolk consults with a wide range of academic institutions on the design of unconventional curricula, and he offers hands-on workshops to faculty around the world.

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Yevgeniya V. Zastavker Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Yevgeniya V. Zastavker, Ph.D., serves as a Director of the Research Institute for Experiential Learning Science (RIELS) at Northeastern University and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Physics at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. She earned her B.S. degree in Physics from Yale University in 1995 and her Ph. D. degree in Biological Physics from MIT in 2001. Dr. Zastavker's research interests lie in the field of STEM education with specific emphasis on innovative pedagogical and curricular practices at the intersection with the issues of gender and diversity. Dr. Zastavker is currently working with Dr. Stolk on an NSF-supported project to understand students’ motivational attitudes in a variety of educational environments with the goal of improving learning opportunities for students and equipping faculty with the knowledge and skills necessary to create such opportunities. One of the founding faculty at Olin College, Dr. Zastavker has been engaged in development and implementation of project-based experiences in fields ranging from science to engineering and design to social sciences (e.g., Critical Reflective Writing; Teaching and Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering, etc.) All of these activities share a common goal of creating curricular and pedagogical structures as well as academic cultures that facilitate students' interests, motivation, and desire to persist in engineering. Through this work, outreach, and involvement in the community, Dr. Zastavker continues to focus on the issues of women and minorities in science/engineering.

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Michael D. Gross Wake Forest University

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Dr. Michael Gross is a Founding Faculty and Associate Professor of Engineering at Wake Forest University and is part of the team that is planning, developing, and delivering the brand new Engineering program. The Engineering department is viewed as an opportunity to break down silos across campus and creatively think about reimagining the undergraduate engineering educational experience, integration and collaboration across departments and programs, and how to achieve the motto of Wake Forest University: Pro Humanitate (“For Humanity”). Michael received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Bucknell University, and his Masters and PhD in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Before coming to Wake Forest, Michael was an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Bucknell University. He has broad research interests in materials and composite processing and design, primarily for solid oxide fuel cells, but also for batteries, solar absorbers, and gas adsorption. However, he also has a passion for designing educational experiences that support student intrinsic motivation. Using the Situational Motivation Scale (SIMS), Basic Needs Satisfaction (BNS) survey, and cluster analysis, Gross helps faculty understand the types of motivations their students are experiencing and practical, effective strategies for making positive shifts in student motivation.

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This research paper examines students’ situational, or activity-level, motivations in STEM classrooms, with a focus on gendered patterns of motivation in different pedagogical environments. The dataset includes over 5000 unique responses to the Situational Motivation Scale (SIMS), an instrument that measures four types of motivation (intrinsic, identified regulation, external regulation, and amotivation) based on Self-Determination Theory (SDT). The SIMS was administered weekly to undergraduate students enrolled in a diverse range of undergraduate STEM courses across multiple institutions. Variable-based quantitative analysis reveals significant differences in motivations across traditional, mixed, and non-traditional course pedagogies. Students report the most internalized motivations in non-traditional settings such as discussion- or project-based courses, and the most externalized motivations in traditional courses. Quantitative analysis also reveals significant gendered patterns in students’ situational motivational responses. For the motivation subscale measures and self-determination index (SDI), the strongest gender-based differences appear in traditionally taught courses, with women reporting lower autonomous motivations and higher controlled motivations compared to men. The motivations of men and women are both more similar, and more positive overall, in STEM courses that employ non-traditional and mixed pedagogies.

Stolk, J. D., & Zastavker, Y. V., & Gross, M. D. (2018, June), Gender, Motivation, and Pedagogy in the STEM Classroom: A Quantitative Characterization Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30556

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