Enhancing the Rigor of Evidence on Gendered Differences in STEM Persistence

This National Science Foundation-funded study is designed to explore how the background characteristics and subjective experiences of computer science students at two Research I institutions in the Midwest interact to determine their interest and persistence in pursuing a career in these fields. Given observed patterns of female attrition away from STEM careers, particularly those in the “hard” sciences, NORC is interested in exploring factors that may differentially impact women who have declared interest in pursuing a computer science major. In particular, the study seeks to identify modifiable factors that distinguish between women who persist from those that do not, factors that may serve as targets in designing interventions that sustain young women’s interest in science and technology careers.

NORC will collect the primary student data via the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) using smartphone technology to obtain short survey responses from participants several times a day over the course of a week.  This data on students’ subjective states both in and out of the classroom will then be combined with personal information collected from a pre-survey and from students’ education records (e.g. age, gender, race, ethnicity, year in school, course enrollment, GPA, subject grades, SAT/ACT scores, international status, high school GPA, and high school name and location).  A variety of analytic methods will be used, including hierarchical linear modeling, to help isolate the personal, classroom, institutional, and cultural factors that promote or hinder women’s persistence in computer science coursework.

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