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“They Don’t See Girls”: Construction of Identities in a Maker Program

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Sagit Betser University of California, Davis

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Sagit Betser is a graduate student in the Learning and Mind Sciences program at UC Davis School of Education. She received B.Sc in Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering from Tel Aviv University. She worked in start-ups, heading research and design multidisciplinary teams. Before joining the PhD program she taught science and design at a K-8 school.

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Lee Michael Martin University of California, Davis Orcid 16x16

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Lee Martin studies people’s efforts to enhance their own learning environments, with a particular focus on mathematical, engineering, and design thinking. In everyday settings, he looks at the varied ways in which people assemble social, material, and intellectual resources for problem solving and learning. In school settings, he looks to find ways in which schools might better prepare students to be more resourceful and flexible in fostering their own learning.

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Rebecca Ambrose Ph.D. University of California-Davis

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Dr. Ambrose is a professor of mathematics education with an on-going interest in equity issues.

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A growing number of research studies over the past decade demonstrate the impact of maker-based activities on engagement, sense of agency and interest-driven learning (Sheridan et al., 2014). In parallel, there is a growing critique of the maker movement narrow representation of what counts as making and who is a maker, leading to the development of programs that purposefully broaden access to maker activities and through it to STEM for girls and youth from underrepresented communities (Buechly, 2014; Barton et al., 2016; Vossoughi et al., 2016). This study investigates a girls-only makerspace program that took place during the summer and provided high school girls from underrepresented communities the opportunity to engage in design and engineering practices, building large physical artifacts using a combination of power tools and digital fabrication technologies. We analyze interview data from 12 girls using the theoretical framework of figured worlds (Holland et al., 1998). Findings demonstrate the compositional aspect of the girls’ disciplinary identity construction. Girls who participated in design and engineering classes in schools talked about their need to constantly negotiate between narrow traditional gender-related perspectives of peers and broader explorative perspectives on becoming a young woman provided to them by a specific teacher or member of their family. In interviews, girls highlighted two aspects of the program in their decision to participate: 1) a girls-only program and 2) the fact that the program took place separated from their community and social network. These features were central in girls’ desire to have the program as a place in which they experiment with “what kind of girl am I” and what it means to become a young woman who is interested in STEM. These findings contribute to our understanding of the complex process of STEM related identity construction for high school girls and what kind of programs they need to support this process.

Betser, S., & Martin, L. M., & Ambrose, R. (2019, June), “They Don’t See Girls”: Construction of Identities in a Maker Program Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31925

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