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Measuring The Educational Benefits Of Diversity In Stem Education: A Multi Institutional Survey Analysis Of Women And Underrepresented Minorities

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

New Research and Trends Related to Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.870.1 - 14.870.9



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Paper Authors


Terrell Strayhorn University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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Dr. Terrell Strayhorn is Associate Professor of Higher Education, Special Assistant to the Provost, and Director of the Center for Higher Education Research and Policy (CHERP) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Recipient of a 2008 NSF CAREER Award (EHR #0747304) for his research on minorities in STEM, Strayhorn is author of several books and over 50 chapters, refereed articles, reports, and analyses.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Measuring the Educational Benefits of Diversity in STEM Education: A Multi-Institutional Survey Analysis of Women and Underrepresented Minorities Abstract

Previous research has documented the importance of diversity in higher education and the need to increase diversity in science and engineering fields by broadening participation among women and historically underrepresented minorities. Large-scale research that measures the educational benefits of diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, however, has been limited. The present study measured the educational benefits of diversity in STEM fields using a nationally representative sample of 8,000 undergraduates. Results indicated that students who reported more engagement with diverse peers also reported higher learning gains as indicated by two variables: personal/social learning and critical thinking. I also found that sex moderated the relationship between diversity and learning; women benefited more than men from engagement with diverse peers.


at the University of Michigan, several national organizations (e.g., National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering) argue that the importance of diversity is heightened in the fields of science and engineering.1 To illustrate the need for increasing diversity, consider national statistics on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce participation. Although White, non-Hispanic men compromised 70% of the STEM workforce, relatively few were women and less than 6% were underrepresented minorities [(URM), i.e., African Americans, Latinos, American Indians/Alaskan Natives].2

Several steps must be taken to improve the representation of URMs in STEM fields, one of 3 And while previous research provides evidence of the educational benefits of diversity in collegiate settings4 and that racially diverse educational environments are associated with positive academic and social outcomes for college students such as improved intergroup relations, mutual understanding, intellectual development, and self- confidence,5,6 relatively few studies assess whether engagement with diverse peers enriches STEM education. This is the gap addressed by the present study.


The purpose of the study was to estimate the educational benefits that accrue to STEM undergraduates who interact with diverse peers. Specifically, in this study, I conducted multivariate analyses on multi-institutional survey data from 8,000 students at 4-year campuses to answer the following: Do STEM students report more learning when they work with diverse peers? Does this relationship vary by race (i.e., URM status) and gender?

Strayhorn, T. (2009, June), Measuring The Educational Benefits Of Diversity In Stem Education: A Multi Institutional Survey Analysis Of Women And Underrepresented Minorities Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5850

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