New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Pre-College Engineering Education Division
We investigated the effects of a university-based summer research program on high school students’ STEM research self-efficacy as measured by self-ratings before and after the program. We chose self-efficacy, beliefs students’ hold about their capabilities to perform given tasks, due to its position within the foundation of social cognitive career theory which asserts that STEM interest is partly dependent on STEM self-efficacy. In turn, STEM interest is correlated with choice of and persistence in STEM majors, typically required for STEM careers. Therefore, early interventions increasing STEM self-efficacy may have long-term effects on STEM career opportunity. While anecdotal evidence indicates summer research reinforces students’ desire to persist in STEM, we attempted to quantify one program’s short-term effects on STEM research self-efficacy.
Based at a school of engineering within a comprehensive urban university, a previously existing summer engineering immersion program was reformulated three years ago as a formal summer research program for 10th and 11th grade students. The seven-week summer research program includes coursework, participation in an ongoing research project in a faculty lab, and mentoring by a graduate student or a postdoctoral researcher. After an initial application, lab tour, and interview processes, students and labs are matched to align and maximize interests. Students also receive college-career guidance and training in public speaking. The program ends with a colloquium open to the university community and family members of students.
The program is selective (23% acceptance rate; 38 of 167 applicants accepted in 2015). However, to provide access and opportunity to a broad demographic, preference is given to high-potential students who are educationally underserved and/or socioeconomically disadvantaged. Of the 38 accepted students in 2015, 40% self-identified as underrepresented minority (Black/African-American or Hispanic) and 54% were female.
Data were collected via an anonymous online survey instrument both pre and post program. Using a 100-point range on a Likert scale with 10-unit intervals, students were asked to rate their level of confidence, level of motivation, how successful they would be, and degree of worry regarding eight STEM-related tasks, for a total of 32 items. Data were gathered from 92% (35 of 38) of participants pre-program and 89% (33 of 37) of students post-program.
Descriptive statistics suggest that after participation in the summer research program, students’ STEM research self-efficacy increased as measured by higher mean self-ratings of confidence and lower mean self-ratings of worry regarding their abilities to perform STEM research-related tasks. While this was true, on average, for both male and female students, a pre-program STEM research self-efficacy gender gap (females reporting lower mean self-efficacy than males) narrowed post-program. Communication-related tasks showed a reverse pattern: males reported lower self-efficacy pre-program than females. Both genders increased in self-efficacy for these tasks, however, increase for males was greater, such that the gender gap widened and reversed, post-program. Although at present sample size is too small to test for significance, in future years, additional data will be collected from our own program as well as from several other partner organizations conducting similar summer research programs. Our preliminary results hold implications for the use of summer research programs to increase diversity in STEM fields through equalizing STEM research self-efficacy between genders.
Listman, J. B., & Kapila, V. (2016, June), Gender-Specific Effects of a Summer Research Program on STEM Research Self-Efficacy Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25400
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