Improving Undergraduate STEM Education through Hospitableness, Justice, Status, and Identity Open Access

Hayward, Jennifer (Fall 2020)

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Despite the plethora of studies on STEM persistence and the disparities within STEM since the 1990s, uneven progress has been made in substantially increasing women and underrepresented groups across STEM disciplines. The time students spend in their post-secondary education critically influences their future development as people, employees, citizens of a nation, consumers, activists, and many other identities and roles. I explore STEM students’ experiences in the classroom, their perceptions of these experiences, as well as possible implications of their experiences on their persistence. Specifically, I focus on overlooked social psychological processes (see Xie, Fang, and Shauman 2015) unfolding in STEM classrooms as potential facilitators or inhibitors of continuation in such fields.

Broadly, my dissertation research investigates the influence of classroom dynamics on students’ experiences in the classroom. More specifically, in Chapter 1 I investigate the pedagogical practices and conditions that shape the classroom climate students experience as they take their classes. In Chapter 2, I explore how students’ experience of classroom dynamics through justice and status processes shape their emotions and perceptions of competence. Finally, in Chapter 3, I turn to students’ development and solidification of a science identity, and the effects of a science identity on persistence in STEM.

The dissertation consists of three empirical papers stemming from data collected through observations and surveys in fall 2017 and fall 2018. I draw on data gathered from 137 hours of classroom observations in introductory biology and computer science classes over the Fall 2017 semester at a private university in the Southeast to provide the basis for Chapter 1 addressing classroom climate. Chapters 2 and 3 take a quantitative approach to students’ experiences in the undergraduate STEM classroom relying on survey data collected from students (n=786) in biology and computer science over the course of two fall (2017, 2018) semesters. I use this survey data to examine how perceived classroom dynamics, assessed in terms of justice and status processes, affect emotional and cognitive responses (Chapter 2) and how those responses to the classroom facilitate or inhibit the development of science identities and persistence in STEM (Chapter 3).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of Tables x

List of Figures xi

List of Appendices xii

Introduction. 1

Overview of Dissertation Methodology. 2

Key Questions from Chapter 1: STEM Chilly Climate Literature. 3

Key Questions from Chapter 2: Justice and Status Processes Literature. 4

Key Questions from Chapter 3: Identity and Persistence Literature. 6

Overview of the Dissertation. 8

Works Cited. 9

Chapter 1: Looking Beyond Mitigating or Thawing the Chilly Climate: Creating a Hospitable Climate. 15

Introduction. 15

Contrasting STEM Fields: Biology and Computer Science. 17

Factors Shaping the Climate of STEM Courses 20

Institutional Factors of Class Size and Classroom Physical Layout 20

Behaviors and Pedagogical Practices of Professors 21

Positionality of Professors and Disciplinary Practices 26

Methods/Data. 28

Overview of the Observation Site. 28

Data Relevant to Research Questions 30

Data Collection Tools 33

Analysis 34

Findings 36

Institutional Power and Professor Decision Making. 36

Institutional Factors of Class Size and Classroom Physical Layout 40

Pedagogical Practices of Professors 44

Emphasis of Assessments of Competence and Information. 45

Disciplinary Practices and Science Capital 51

Discussion. 55

Impact of Factors Beyond Faculty Control 55

Impact of Faculty Decision Making. 56

General Directions for Future Research. 58

Works Cited. 61

Chapter 2: Effects of Fairness and Social Characteristics on Undergraduate STEM Students’ Emotions and Perceptions of Competence. 83

Introduction. 83

Conceptualizing Emotional and Cognitive Assessments in the Classroom.. 85

Conceptualizing Justice Processes 87

The Effects of the Justice Types on Emotions 89

The Effects of Justice Types on Competence. 92

Status Processes in Classroom Dynamics 94

Conceptualizing Status Processes and Competence. 95

The Effects of Status on Emotions 96

Methods and Data Sources 97

Sample. 98

Surveys 99

Analysis 102

Results 103

Discussion. 106

Importance of Justice Perceptions 106

Lack of Effects of Procedural Justice. 108

Strong Effects of Distributive Justice and Interpersonal Justice. 110

Role of Status Characteristics 110

Role of Emotions 111

Implications for Policy and Practice. 113

Endnotes 115

Works Cited. 116

Chapter 3: The College Classroom Experience and it’s influences on Science Identities and Persistence. 134

Introduction. 134

Identity and Identity Processes 137

STEM and Identity. 137

Symbolic Interactionist theoretical mechanisms 139

Factors Contributing to Science Identities 141

Competence. 142

Performance. 144

Recognition/Verification. 146

Emotions 147

Relationships of Science Identity on Persistence. 148

Methods and Data Sources 149

Sample. 150

Surveys 151

Analysis 154

Results 155

Science Identity. 156

Math Identity. 157

Intentions to enroll in future STEM courses 158

Discussion. 158

Endnotes 165

Works Cited. 166

Chapter 4: Conclusion. 182

Looking Beyond Mitigating or Thawing the Chilly Climate: Creating a Hospitable Climate. 183

Effects of Fairness and Social Characteristics on Undergraduate STEM Students’ Emotions and Perceptions of Competence. 183

Factors in the College Classroom that impact Students’ Science Identities and Persistence. 185

Future Research Directions 186

Works Cited. 192

About this Dissertation

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