Crystal City, Virginia
April 29, 2018
April 29, 2018
May 2, 2018
Diversity and Gender
Research indicates that various societal, educational, familial, and identity-related factors affect girls’ STEM motivation disproportionately to boys, particularly in engineering. A lack of prior experiences with building and tinkering, low teacher self-efficacy in engineering pedagogical content knowledge, and a lack of real world connections can all have a significant impact on girls’ participation and motivation on engineering tasks. Situated in self-determination theory (Ryan and Deci, 2000a, 2000b) and the stereotype inoculation model (Dasgupta, 2011), this qualitative study explores how the motivational conditions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are manifested in the behaviors of students working in small groups on a series of engineering design tasks within their science class, with a focus on how the group’s gender composition affects these behaviors and potentially modifies or reinforces other variables affecting girls’ enactments of motivation. Participants include six small groups of high school students, representing varying gender compositions, from three biology classes in two rural New England schools. Thematic analysis of both classroom observations and focus group interview responses indicates that manifestations of autonomy differ along gender lines, with girls showing more task-oriented and facilitative behaviors and boys exhibiting more exploratory and directive behaviors. Competence and relatedness, in contrast, appear to manifest differently between groups of varying gender composition, with female majority groups showing more cohesion and whole group problem-solving and collaboration than those with gender parity. Student reflections about their experiences with the engineering tasks, however, showed significant differences between the genders regardless of group composition or enacted behaviors. Girls expressed low competence and task-value for the engineering tasks, while boys indicated much higher confidence and connection to prior experiences that supported their engineering competence. Implications from this study are two-fold: providing opportunities for collaborative group work and attention to gender composition will provide greater access for all students to the conditions required for motivation, particularly with regard to relatedness. In order to positively impact girls’ perceptions of competence, however, practitioners will need sufficient support and professional development in order to increase their own engineering self-efficacy so that they may better present engineering tasks in a manner that promotes equal access to all students and combats existing barriers that girls may bring with them into the STEM classroom.
Robinson, J., & Nieswandt, M., & McEneaney, E. (2018, April), Motivation and Gender Dynamics in High School Engineering Groups Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. https://peer.asee.org/29554
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: © 2018 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