ECR Projects

Explore past and current fundamental STEM education research projects across the three research areas that NSF's EDU Core Research (ECR) program funds, as well as across ECR funding types. Other search filters draw from both NSF's data and the ECR Hub's hand coding of award abstracts.

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CAREER SBP Creating Equitable STEM Environments: A Multi-Method Contextual Approach to Mitigating Social Identity Threat Among Women in STEM

Effective Years: 2015-2023

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-wide activity that offers awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Why do women thrive in some STEM classrooms and drop out of others, and how does this impact whether they will continue on in a STEM major? While much previous research focuses on the role of overt prejudice and stereotyping, the ways in which subtler, situational cues within STEM classes shape women's experiences have remained largely unexplored. This CAREER research project begins with premise that STEM professors' beliefs about students' math and science abilities (termed faculty mindsets) serve as situational cues that are communicated in STEM classrooms and significantly influence women's experiences in these fields. By examining how fixed and growth mindsets are communicated to students and how they shape the learning climate of STEM classes, this project will integrate research and teaching by creating and evaluating feasible and practical pedagogical strategies that stoke women's persistence and performance in STEM. This project is poised to shape best practices about how STEM faculty could communicate better with students in their classrooms to support the motivation and performance of all students--improving STEM education and educator development. Based on the experience-sampling, longitudinal, and experimental research that comprise this research plan, the research team will create and evaluate empirically based recommendations and intervention materials. These faculty tools and videos will be broadly disseminated and made publically available to multiple stakeholders including researchers, educators, practitioners, and lay citizens.

Specifically, this multi-method proposal uses 2 longitudinal and experience-sampling studies, 6 experiments, and a growth mindset intervention with STEM faculty to identify the cues that connote faculty mindsets and shape women's interest, aspirations, persistence, and performance. The experience-sampling and longitudinal studies provide essential, ecologically valid data about women in natural classroom settings, while the lab experiments provide rigorous tests of the causal mechanisms underlying the findings. Most notably, the proposed research is the first to conceptualize and directly examine the messages that signal faculty mindsets, their influence on women's science and math outcomes, and to design and evaluate an intervention aimed at facilitating growth mindset messages in STEM learning environments. The research extends the idea of mindsets from an individual difference to a contextual, structural factor in classroom environments. The research is transformative in that it identifies a new, structural barrier to women's full participation in STEM fields (fixed ability cues in STEM classrooms), investigates the processes by which those cues stifle the motivation and performance of women in STEM, and evaluates an intervention aimed at mitigating that barrier by introducing growth mindset cues that support the motivation and performance of all students. Together, these studies press forward the frontier of knowledge as they provide novel insights about how equitable and inviting STEM environments can be created.