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Research-Informed Practices for Inclusive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Classrooms: Strategies for Educators to Close the Gender Gap

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Research Initiatives

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1042.1 - 23.1042.17



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Paper Authors


Helena Isabel Scutt Stanford University

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Helena Scutt is a rising senior studying biomechanical engineering at Stanford University. Her interests are human movement, optogenetics, realization of girls' and women's potential in STEM fields, and high performance sailing. She has been Captain of the Stanford Varsity Sailing Team for two years and is on the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider.

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Shannon Katherine Gilmartin Stanford University


Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

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Dr. Sheri D. Sheppard, Ph.D., P.E., is professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Besides teaching both undergraduate and graduate design and education related classes at Stanford University, she conducts research on engineering education and work-practices, and applied finite element analysis. From 1999-2008 she served as a Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, leading the Foundation’s engineering study (as reported in Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field). In addition, in 2003 Dr. Sheppard was named co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to form the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), along with faculty at the University of Washington, Colorado School of Mines, and Howard University. More recently (2011) she was named as co-PI of a national NSF innovation center (Epicenter), and leads an NSF program at Stanford on summer research experiences for high school teachers. Her industry experiences includes engineering positions at Detroit's "Big Three:" Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Chrysler Corporation.
At Stanford she has served a chair of the faculty senate, and is currently the Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

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Samantha Ruth Brunhaver Stanford University

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Samantha Brunhaver is a fifth-year graduate student at Stanford University. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in engineering education. Samantha completed a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Northeastern University in 2008 and a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in Design for Manufacturing from Stanford in 2010.

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Research-Informed Practices for Inclusive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Classrooms: Strategies for Educators to Close the Gender Gap (other topics) The under-representation and attrition of female students in science, technology,engineering, and math (STEM) fields is a widely acknowledged, complex problem for whichsolutions will be multi-faceted. However, while a wide body of research examines factors thatinfluence girls’ and women’s experiences in these fields, many STEM educators at the secondaryand post-secondary levels are unfamiliar with the most recent research on gender’s relation toSTEM classes. This paper aims to bridge the research to educational practice with practicalstrategies for educators as they work to capture students’ initial interest in STEM and retainstudents who are already interested. All practices were initially chosen for their constructivenessfor women, but in fact the benefits of most practices can be broadened to all STEM students. The selected research in this literature review presents not only how students’educational experiences vary by gender, but also how women and men’s interpretations of thesame educational experiences differ. A focus was given to papers about gender in math, physics,chemistry, and engineering courses at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Within theprimary focus on gender there is a sub-focus on under-represented minority status. Keyconstructs that arose were self-efficacy, identity, and self-concept. Once several clear themesemerged from the general survey of research, further research review was tailored to those themeareas. The Journal of Engineering Education and the Journal of Research in Science Teachingwere particularly relevant; however sources include other journals as well as books, articles, andreports. The literature review suggests eight essential classroom practices and experiences that areorganized into three categories: • The “Skills to Emphasize” category encourages educators to teach skills such as math, spatial reasoning, communication, and resilience. For example, regarding emphasizing communication skills in engineering, most educators probably do not realize that performing well on English tests can decrease a student's perception of his or her own math skills. Moreover, this negative effect of good English grades on mathematical self- assessments is stronger for females than for males (Correll, 2001). This knowledge provides compelling evidence to emphasize the importance of communication skills and to reshape the society’s false creed that math and language skills are mutually exclusive. • The “Scaffolding to Implement” section emphasizes the importance of active expert roles and clear feedback in grading. These practices target the gender gap in self-efficacy by building mastery experiences and preventing stereotypes from interfering with girls’ self-assessments of competency, respectively. • The “Mindsets to Adapt” category establishes the need for educators to re-evaluate group work practices and to be conscious of differential treatment of students by gender. By challenging common assumptions in student-student and student-teacher interactions, the research in this category aims to address subtle cues in social situations that may be influencing students’ decisions with regard to pursuing STEM studies. Each suggestion can be applied to improve a single course or more broadly practiced overseveral courses to further the benefit. Notably, none of the suggested practices require newinfrastructure, materials, or staff. Following the presentation and discussion of the supportingresearch for each of the eight practices, implementation strategies are outlined. This will giveeducators practical recommendations on how to make courses more inclusive. Theimplementation strategies are followed by a brief outline of suggested directions for futureresearch. Therefore this paper is of relevance to both educators and researchers.

Scutt, H. I., & Gilmartin, S. K., & Sheppard, S., & Brunhaver, S. R. (2013, June), Research-Informed Practices for Inclusive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Classrooms: Strategies for Educators to Close the Gender Gap Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22427

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