The importance of diversifying the U.S. scientific research workforce is widely acknowledged, yet African Americans and Hispanic/Latino(a)s continue to be chronically underrepresented in research careers, and face many barriers to pursuing these fields (National Institutes of Health, 2012; National Science Foundation, 2010). One well-recognized barrier is the prevalence of negative racial stereotypes about aptitude for science-related endeavors. Negative stereotypes about one’s group are a source of identity threat and have well-documented detrimental effects on performance across many stereotyped domains (e.g., Steele & Aronson, 1995; Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002). The experience of persistent occurrences of stereotype threat across time predicts underrepresented minorities’ disidentification with, and attrition from the sciences (Woodcock, Hernandez, Estrada, & Schultz, 2012).
We argue that disparities such as ethnic/racial underrepresentation in the scientific workforce are one consequence of contending with persistent stereotype threat across time – what we refer to as chronic stereotype threat. Achievement goals such as mastery (a focus on developing personal competence and attaining mastery of material), performance-avoidance (avoiding the appearance of incompetence, especially in the presence of others), and performance-approach (a focus on demonstrating competence, especially in the presence of others) goals are critical to how students frame and cope with academic challenges The goals the students adopt give purpose and direction to academic achievement-related behaviors and are predictive of academic performance, field choice, and persistence (Harackiewicz, Barron, Tauer, & Elliot, 2002). The long-term impact of chronic stereotype threat on academic achievement goals has not been previously studied. Understanding how achievement goals mediate the effects of stereotype threat across time may be crucial for addressing issues of disparity. We examine the impact of chronic stereotype threat on underrepresented minorities’ (URMs) academic achievement goals and persistence in science across time in the context of a well-established intervention and training program – the NIH’s Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program.
Previous research has shown that the long-standing NIH RISE training program is effective at retaining underrepresented minorities in science. We argue that one of the mechanisms for this success is the reduction in maladaptive achievement goals that can be brought on by stereotype threat. We report analyses of a national sample comparing RISE students with propensity-score matched controls over a six year period. Mediation analyses revealed that while RISE program membership did not buffer students from stereotype threat, it changed students’ downstream responses and ultimately their academic outcomes. Non-program students were less likely than RISE students to persist in the sciences, partially because they adopted maladaptive achievement goals in response to chronic stereotype threat. We discuss how these findings extend stereotype threat and goal orientation theories and provide insight into the success of intervention programs.
Latina Resiliency: Dealing with Contextual Mitigating Factors in Pursuit of STEM Careers
Alejandro J. Gallard, Wesley Pitts, Belinda Flores Bustos, Lorena Claeys, and Katie Brkich—all of Georgia Southern University
In this scholarly work, we make a case for the importance of learning from successful people on an individual basis. In particular, we present case studies of Latinas who, on a daily basis, struggle to maintain a sense of balance between their professional aspirations in the STEM fields, and the multiple socio-political contexts within which their lives are enacted. We refer to this infinite set of contexts as contextual mitigating factors (CMFs) which are dynamic, and interweave community, education, family, and gender/self, to name a few. The preparation and development of these contexts create circumstances, which overlap and aggregate in time to change moment-by-moment. These contextual fluxes serve as mitigating forces that help to shape the multilayered outcomes of resiliencies and related positionalities for these women. Embracing and overcoming, or at least stabilizing, the mitigating factors are key factors inherent to the success of each of the Latinas in this story. These Latinas, because of their gender, ethnicity, and/or race, are models of resilience to sociocultural contextual mitigating factors. We do not use the word resilience in a neoliberal sense, i.e., those who tough it out can make it. Rather we think of resilience as a signature that indicates the existence of societal inequities that particularly target people because of who they are.
The case studies presented within are individual stories with general patterns. Some [email protected] readers may argue that there is no difference between their stories and those in our narrative. Other [email protected] may claim the same, and point to not only their stories, but also to those of a handful of others. We stridently reject either argument because to accept these notions would counter the realities that Latinas must negotiate in the United States. In other words, even though a few Latinas have been successful in their endeavors, this is no cause for a celebration; gender related inequity and social injustice still exist. In terms of inequity and social injustice, the question of success should be situated with an interrogation of the notion of societal impact of such a nature that stories of resilience disappear. For example, within the US society, the underrepresentation and disenfranchisement of Latinas in the educational pipeline (Flores & Claeys, 2011), and specifically in STEM persist (National Science Foundation [NSF], 2013; Santiago, 2008). While there has been an increase in success among Latinas, their level of accomplishment in a male-dominated world should not be romanticized; rather, given the odds of overcoming the many obstacles faced along the academic and professional paths, Latinas’ successes must be highlighted. Kao (2007) argues that the lack of nurturing the potential of a large underrepresented group, such as Latinas, is the “wicket problem of education.” (p. 101). While revolutionary Latinas have flexed their muscles and have stood at the crossroads of entering into the STEM fields, in spite of their successes, that world is still dominated by their male counterparts, especially White men (NSF, 2013). Latinas also must contend with other mitigating factors, such as a worldview that is not inclusive of all.
Unfortunately, the literature abounds with examples of either treating individuals from a holistic point of view, or specifically in the case of [email protected], denying their rich but very distinct sociocultural, economic, political, and historical roots by simply considering them as a homogenous group (Flores, Sheets, & Clark, 2011; Gallard, 2009). We assert that how individuals identify themselves as racial, ethnic and/or cultural beings is paramount to understanding how they respond to how they are situated or positioned in education via a host of dynamic socio-political CMFs.
Note: We use [email protected] to reject the gendering of the category Latino/a and thus making it gender neutral.
Cooperative Online Learning Tools for Middle School Science: Lessons Learned from a Design-based Research Study
Fatima E. Terrazas-Arellanes, Emily Walden, Lisa A. Strycker, and Carolyn Knox—all of University of Oregon
This symposium reports lessons learned on the NSF-funded Collaborative Online Projects for English Language Learners (COPELLS) project, in which an iterative process of development, implementation, revision, and evaluation was used to design and test collaborative online learning science curricula for middle school students, including general education students and English learners (primarily of Hispanic origin). Using a design-based research approach, two case studies and a feasibility study, with a total of 212 students and 10 teachers, were undertaken to determine the potential for adapting two online science units, originally developed in Spanish by curriculum developers in Mexico, for U.S. middle school English learners. We examined whether the refined “Let’s Help Our Environment” and “What Your Body Needs” units were feasible to implement, useful for helping teachers engage with students, and effective in improving science knowledge. Data were drawn from multiple sources, including teacher logs, student and teacher surveys, web analytics, student notebooks, content assessments, and focus groups. Results indicate that the online science units were feasible to implement, usable and helpful for both teachers and students, and associated with gains in science content knowledge. This work offers a model for the development of culturally-relevant, constructivist, and collaborative science instructional materials for English learners using online, multimedia technology.