Relationship Among Class Perceptions, Math Identification, and STEM Choice: Examining Gender and Racial Differences

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Virginia Tech

The first purpose of this research was to understand the factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of women of color in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career fields, with a specific focus on understanding the issues faced by Black women. The second purpose was to analyze the gender and racial differences in the interrelationship of high school students' class perceptions, math identification, and their decisions to select a STEM major in college. These relationships are important because the growth outlook for careers in STEM is higher than other career fields and providing underrepresented women in STEM equal access to these careers is vital. Additionally, it is important to increase the gender and racial diversity of the STEM workforce. The first manuscript (Chapter 2) was based on a literature review that provided an overview of the social factors that affect the underrepresentation of women of color in STEM by highlighting the experiences of girls of color in their youth. The literature review explored the stereotypes and discrimination girls of color experienced in the K-12 school system that affect their participation in math and science, and how the intersection of race and gender contributed to the experiences of Black females when it comes to their experiences with STEM. Using the MUSIC model of motivation theory and domain identification theory, the study in Chapter 3 explored the relationship between students' math class perceptions, math identification, and decision to major in a math-intensive (i.e., math and statistics, engineering, computer science, and physical sciences) STEM major. The study in Chapter 3 used multigroup structural equation modeling (SEM) to analyze gender and racial differences among four groups Black females, Black males, White females, and White males. The results indicate that students' math class perceptions of success and interest were positively related to their math identification. Furthermore, students' math identification was positively related to their decisions to select a STEM major as they entered college. The interrelationship between math class perceptions, math identification, and the decision to select a STEM major was not statistically different for Black females as compared to Black males, White females, or White males. Implications for schools and educators for increasing the participation of Black female students in STEM are discussed.

Math Identification, Class Perceptions, Black Females, STEM, Domain Identification, Career Goals, MUSIC