ERIC Number: ED556094
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
Wise Women: A Narrative Study of Former Living-Learning Community Participants' Experiences as STEM Majors
Grays, Shaefny D.
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, North Carolina State University.
Over the past few decades, higher education has attempted to address the issue of underrepresentation of women in STEM undergraduate degree programs. Living-learning communities represent one strategy to help address low persistence for women in undergraduate STEM majors. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of undergraduate women who formerly participated in a "Women in Science and Engineering" (WISE) living-learning community while attending a southeastern public research university and to examine how their experiences as a minority in STEM influenced their decision to persist in their intended STEM major. The study employed a feminist standpoint theory lens and used narrative inquiry as the methodological strategy. Specifically, the study sought to answer three research questions: 1) What were women's experiences as a member of WISE? 2) What are women's perceptions about why they persisted in STEM degree programs? 3) What are women's perceptions about STEM fields of study? Data were collected using in-depth interviews and journal reflections. Themes that emerged from the women's stories provide insight into what experiences were meaningful to them and how their experiences shaped the decision to stay in their STEM majors. Themes included ideas such as support systems as survival kits; perception matters--stepping stones vs. stumbling blocks; and today's STEM professions, different than yesterday's. Overall, the women in this study chose to view their experiences as minorities in STEM in a more positive way, which plays a significant role in their success of overcoming barriers in STEM as presented in the literature. That the participants' positive outlook may impact their persistence is a meaningful finding that has practical implications. The findings from this study suggest that higher education administrators should consider implementing policies that encourage faculty to interact with female undergraduates outside of the classroom as well as implementing components the participants deemed important in multiple campus units or programs. Faculty should incorporate more inclusive teaching pedagogies into their classes--specifically assignments or activities that encourage or require collaboration and fewer that result in one student's grade taking from another. Also, WISE-like living-learning communities could benefit by providing monthly calendars that include program-specific events as well as the larger campus events; collaborating with other units on campus connected to their theme or mission; and increasing the interaction between women participants and women STEM professionals. In addition to practical implications, the results from this study offer a few theoretical implications. Feminist standpoint theory was not as useful in understanding the experiences of the women in this study because they did not talk about issues of oppression and discrimination as much as that theoretical framework suggests. Instead, the women chose to view as positive those experiences that, with a feminist standpoint theoretical lens, may have been viewed as negative. Thus, positive psychology frameworks may be more beneficial at studying persistence in STEM. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page: http://www.proquest.com/en-US/products/dissertations/individuals.shtml.]
Descriptors: STEM Education, Womens Education, Undergraduate Study, Disproportionate Representation, Gender Differences, Undergraduate Students, Communities of Practice, Minority Group Students, Feminism, Inquiry, Student Experience, Attitude Measures, Majors (Students), Interviews, Journal Writing, Thematic Approach, Barriers, Career Choice, School Policy, College Faculty, Teacher Student Relationship, Teaching Methods
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A