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IES Grant

Title: Gender Stereotypes in STEM: Exploring Developmental Patterns for Prevention
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Master, Allison Awardee: University of Washington
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2018 - 06/30/2022) Award Amount: $1,399,149
Goal: Exploration Award Number: R305A180167
Description:

Co-Principal Investigator: Meltzoff, Andrew

Purpose: The research team will explore how and when gender stereotypes about academic fields emerge, the relationship between stereotypes and motivation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and whether teaching a growth mindset (i.e., the belief that intelligence is malleable) can change stereotypes and improve students' sense of belonging, self-efficacy, interest, and outcomes in STEM. The gender gap in STEM remains a large and persistent problem in the United States. Although many factors influence this gap, research points to gender difference in students' interest and motivation in STEM as a major contributor to later disparities in STEM majors and careers. This difference in interest and motivation is driven, in part, by two stereotypes in the United States that characterize STEM as more "for boys" than girls: cultural fit STEM-gender stereotypes (e.g., "STEM is for boys") and ability STEM-gender stereotypes ("Boys are better at STEM than girls"). The findings from this research will be used to inform the development of future interventions to reduce the impact of STEM-gender stereotypes.

Project Activities: In Years 1-3, the research team will conduct correlational (Study 1) and cohort sequential (Study 2) longitudinal studies to examine the developmental trajectory of how cultural fit and ability STEM-gender stereotypes, sense of belonging, efficacy, interest, and academic outcomes correlate with each other from 1st through 12th grade. In Year 4, the research team will conduct a study with elementary-school students (Study 3) to explore whether teaching a growth mindset can reduce the effects of stereotypes and increase interest in STEM.

Products: The research team will identify and characterize the emergence of stereotypes and their relationship to motivation in STEM as well as provide preliminary evidence of potentially promising strategies for reducing the impact of STEM-gender stereotypes. They will also produce peer-reviewed publications as well as accessible and actionable products for educators and policymakers, such as articles and op-eds for publically-accessible outlets, online training modules for practitioners and parents, community events and workshops, and reports for state administrators and national organizations (e.g., the CS4All Consortium).

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study includes elementary, middle, and high schools in urban and suburban areas of Rhode Island.

Sample: In Year 1, approximately 1,500 1st – 12th grade students across 84 classrooms (about 125 per grade level) will participate in Study 1. A subset of those students — all participating students in grades 2-8 from Study 1 — will participate in Study 2. Data collection for Study 2 will take place during Years 1-3, meaning participating students will be in grades 4-10 by the end of the study. In addition, in Years 2 and 3, approximately 72 3rd and 5th grade students will participate in pilot studies to prepare for Study 3. In Year 4, approximately 126 3rd grade students and 126 5th grade students will participate in Study 3.

Malleable Factors: The malleable factor is whether having a growth mindset counteracts students' cultural fit and ability STEM —gender stereotypes. Researchers will use the findings from this research to inform the development and identification of interventions to reduce the impact of STEM-gender stereotypes.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will conduct three studies. In Year 1, the research team will conduct a cross-sectional correlational study of elementary, middle, and high school students' endorsement and awareness of cultural fit and ability STEM-gender stereotypes, sense of belonging, self-efficacy, and academic outcomes across STEM fields (Study 1). During Years 1-3, the research team will conduct a cohort-sequential study that will measure students' endorsement and awareness of stereotypes, belonging, self-efficacy, and interest during the fall and spring for three consecutive years (Study 2). For Studies 1 and 2, students will complete surveys using Qualtrics. During Year 4, the research team will conduct a 3-group, randomized experiment to examine whether adopting a growth mindset can change stereotypes and improve students' sense of belonging, self-efficacy, interest, and outcomes in STEM (Study 3). Students will be randomly assigned to a cultural fit growth mindset treatment group, an ability growth mindset treatment group, or a control condition. Students will complete a brief activity where they will go through an online module and then write to teach a friend what they have learned and will complete post-tests in Qualitrics.

Control Condition: Studies 1 and 2 do not include control conditions due to the nature of their designs. In Study 3, students in the control condition will engage in a similar activity as the treatment conditions, with the critical difference being that they will focus on their memory rather than the concept of a growth mindset.

Key Measures: Primary measures include students' grades in math and science courses, grade point average, enrollment in optional STEM courses, and researcher-developed surveys of students' endorsement and awareness of cultural fit STEM-gender stereotypes, endorsement and awareness of ability STEM-gender stereotypes, sense of belonging, self-efficacy, and interest in STEM. In addition, in Study 3, students will take an age-appropriate, researcher-developed computer science test and a survey of their growth mindsets about cultural fit and ability.

Data Analytic Strategy: For Study 1, the research team will examine correlations among the variables based on type of stereotype (cultural fit or ability), gender, age, and STEM domain. For Study 2, they will use multilevel modeling to examine effects of grade, gender, stereotypes, change over time, and relationships between waves. For Study 3, the research team will use multilevel modeling to test whether students who learn a growth mindset will significantly outperform the control group on measures of STEM interest and performance.


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