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.

Ninth-grade biology students create cell models using clay.

Home > ECR Projects Search > Project Detail
STEM Workforce Development STEM Workforce Development  STEM Learning and Learning Environments STEM Learning and Learning Environments  
Broadening Participation in STEM Broadening Participation in STEM

Career Commitment and Retention in STEM: The Intersection of Professional Identity and Career Management Skills in Minority and Women STEM Students

Effective Years: 2016-2020

Researchers at Tennessee State University will study the role of professional, social, and cultural identities on career choice and commitment among underrepresented minorities. They will expand the Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) by examining factors such as problem solving, decision making, goal setting, and managing goal pursuit that are not articulated in the current model. As critical as self-efficacy is in the process of developing one?s interests, making career choices, and preparing for career entry, it is not clear how lower levels of these skills may limit one?s commitment to, ability to enact, and self-efficacy about engaging in the chosen career. The research will provide valuable insights for students and career development practitioners on tactical measures for successful careers in STEM fields. The knowledge gained by understanding the interplay of the sophistication of career skill level and career development could alter the design of interventions to recruit and retain underrepresented persons throughout the STEM pipeline.

The researchers will use a mixed methods longitudinal design to investigate three questions: (1) What is the relationship among STEM career development measures, basic career skills, and social class and developmental complexity? (2) How do these variables change over time in both STEM persisters and non-persisters? and (3) How do these variables explain persistence among African American and women STEM majors? The sample will include a stratified, proportionally representative sample of 400 STEM majors. In addition to the primary variables of interest (career-related problem solving, decision-making, goal setting, and managing goal pursuit), STEM career development, professional identity, social class, and developmental complexity will be studied. Collecting data on grade-point average, changes in majors, internships, employment/graduate student interviewing, and progress toward career goals will provide the opportunity for examining the link between the previous variables and more traditional measures of success and persistence. They will use structural equation modeling and hierarchical linear modeling to analyze the relationship between and among the variables and growth curve modeling and profile analysis to provide additional data regarding the longitudinal change in the variables of interest. The research will result in a clearer understanding of the role of problem-solving, goal- setting, and planning skills in the development of a STEM vocational identity and persistence in STEM careers; the role of professional, racial/ethnic, and social class identities on commitment and retention in STEM majors; and the role of cognitive complexity in facilitating STEM career development, commitment, and retention.

This project is supported by NSF's EHR Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in three thematic areas: STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation, and STEM workforce development.